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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Light Bulb Exchange at Dalhousie NOV 20!

As part of Dalhousie's quest to create a greener campus, students and staff are invited to attend a Light Bulb Exchange on Thursday, November 20th. From 9am to 3pm, you can get a FREE energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Light bulb (C.F.L.) at one of four booths that will be set up in the S.U.B. on Studley campus, near the cafeteria in the Tupper, in the main entrance of Fenwick and in Building A on Sexton Campus.

The Bulb Exchange is part of the "A Million Acts of Green" program coordinated by The Hour in which Dal is participating. http://green.cbc.ca/

At the booths we will be accepting incandescent light bulbs as an exchange, but note that to receive a C.F.L., it is not mandatory to bring an incandescent bulb. Please remember to bring your Dalcard. There will be one light bulb per person. The bulbs are to be used for your personal use for lighting at home or for products that you own and have brought to the university such as a desk lamp.

The Bulb Exchange is brought to you by the Office of Sustainability, BIOL 3601 (Nature Conservation Course), and Sustain Dal! Partners that supported this project include Conserve Nova Scotia and Dalhousie University Human Resources Department.

If you would like to participate in the "One Million Acts Of Green" campaign, sign up at http://green.cbc.ca/ andjoin the Dalhousie Group.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Solar Furnace 2.0

Hey Lower Footprinters!

It's been a quiet few months, but we're now into the beginning of the heating season. Even if you don't plan on turning the heat on yet, you know that many of your friends and neighbours already have that thermostat creeping up. I, for one, enjoy waking up to the crisp morning chill, even if some days it means an extra few minutes under the blankets.

To that end, this weekend is going to be a construction weekend. I have a summer's worth of soda cans stockpiled. I have left over bbq paint from last year and I also have four south facing, vertical windows and three more ceiling windows that are ready to take the cans.

While I may not get to it this weekend, I also intend to put two uni-directional vents in the wall between my solarium "heat room" and the rest of the house. One flows into the house at the ceiling, the other out of the house near the floor. With proper louvers and good interior temperature control, this should mean very little heat loss to the solarium on cloudy and cold days.

Photos will update my progress as the weekend unfolds!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Green Shut Out of Canadian Election

While over 6% of Canadian voters supported the Green Party today, the party failed to secure any seats within the parliament. Leader Elizabeth May faired well against Tory Peter McKay, but was not actually close enough in her rural Nova Scotia riding.

The Liberal Party lost roughly a quarter of their seats while only only losing 3.3% of the popular vote (or roughly 10% of their previous total vote). Much of this loss is attributed to a weak leader and his Green Shift carbon tax platform.

While the NDP gained 8 seats, they were effectively taken from the Liberals, who share common ground in terms of environmental attitudes.

Welcome to the world of Canadian politics at the end of 2008. Environmental issues and environmental policies have never had so much support from the population, but with a lack of unified, coordinated leadership to take these issues and form them into policies and platforms that are understood by the people, we face more years of being on the outside of the process.

Certainly, our first-past-the-post electoral process is partly to blame, but given that reality, three contenders in each riding that more or less represent some part of my environmental concerns means that the voters remain confused. I'd like to say it's time for the "Left" to unite, but the environmental issues we face cannot wait for that to happen.

The economic crisis we now face is a perfect parallel for the environmental crisis we also face. Corporate greed causes catastrophic damage. Individual overconsumption and irresponsibility is encouraged and rewarded. In the case of the economic crisis, however, governments the world over recognize the need to step in and commit.

How bad does the environmental crisis need to get before similar action would be possible? Would the damage be as reversible as a few bad weeks on Wall Street? What if you lost 25% of your environmental capital in less than six months?

As we enter into a new period of minority government, the green mandate of the majority of Canadians needs to find a new voice. It needs to become the bargaining chip in everything that the Conservative government gets to do in the coming months. We can't afford to wait for the political "Left" to sort themselves out.

I put it to you. What do we do next?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Drill Baby Drill

Last night, my blood ran cold when I heard a mostly full arena chanting "Drill Baby Drill" at the RNC. I had no intention of making my blog a political platform in a partisan way, but I for one can't let this pass.

An energy strategy that involves drilling for more oil and natural gas, especially in protected areas, is not a solution... it's simply a stop-gap measure that only delays the inevitable energy crisis while also putting more CO2 into the atmosphere.

If you're reading my blog, you're probably already against the GOP's energy strategy. If you need convincing, you should check out Obama's New Energy for America page.

I'm not an American, but this is one issue where I need to make my voice heard, even if I cannot vote, because the US energy strategy will affect me and everyone else on the planet.

Are you an American undecided or non-voter? Will you cast a vote on my behalf? Tell me and we will feature it on this blog between now and November 7.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I've Joined the Other Group

If you recall my earlier posts about water conservation, I firmly came down on the side of the "jiggle the handle" toilet flushing debate. I thought an unflushed toilet was something terrible, something only found in the morning when your parents are visiting.

Well, at the risk of affecting my future dating life, I'm happy to announce that I've switched sides. I'm now in the "if it's yellow, let it mellow" camp. So far, it's been no big deal. I have my own en suite, so I don't have to worry about guests or roomies. It's been relatively cool, so I don't have to worry about anything stewing, even if it is left for a workday or overnight.

Thus far, I'm saving two to three tanks of water per day, maybe more (some days), maybe less (since I was doing the jiggle thing anyway).

Do you have any experience with this? Is there a safe, eco-friendly trick to this to keep it cleaner or more sanitary? I sincerely doubt dropping a bleach tablet in the tank is the eco-friendly option I'm looking for...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Toyota Joins the Fuel Cell Ramp Up

This article was just sent to me from Meg about the new specs of the Toyota Fuel Cell.


Definitely worth checking out!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

So this is called grazing?

As I type, I have a lot more food in front of me than usual. My office assistant and I decided to start making coffee in the morning rather than getting the usual take-out stuff. Reusable mugs, less cost, just as good. Additionally, my spread includes a container of plain roasted almonds, half a bag of baby carrots, a home-made muffin, and the yogurt is in the fridge behind me.

So this is the new munch-all-the-time-on-food-that-is-good-
for-you plan. Lunch yesterday consisted of a big bag of carrots and broccoli.

We won't talk about last night's supper just yet.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Eco-Friendly Dorms Are Coming

I'm just arriving back at work and I find this in my inbox:

How green is the College?

Very neat to see that a little bit of competition can go a long way...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

An Eco-Friendly Diet

I've decided that it is time to shed a few pounds and start eating better. Thus, today I started putting together an eco-friendly diet with a purpose: The Diet for a Lazy Wanna-Be Vegetarian. We all know that eating locally and eating vegetarian are both smart and good for the environment, but I have to be perfectly honest. I'm damn lazy when it comes to food. I work 40 hours a week, take classes, have a busy and active social life, and at the end of the day, if I even get home by supper time, I'm not prepared to start cooking anything dramatic. Did I mention I hate and routinely waste left-overs?

I do love to cook. I just don't make time for it unless I'm having guests or am really craving something specific. But if I'm going to be realistic about this effort, I'm going to have to make it foolproof. As inspiration, my houseguest Meg has eating habits that are very similar to mine: quick, infrequent, uncomplicated, but the difference is that she's much more likely to make a three item salad, while I'm more likely to order the pizza.

For starters, I'm replacing the usual snack items in the house (chips, chocolate, etc) with better choices. A short trip to Pete's this morning got that much done.

Any suggestions? Recipes? Foolproof strategies?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Low Flow Shower Head

As you may have noticed, I've been away from the blog for a bit. I was volunteering at the IIHF World Hockey Championships which left little time for much else. Community involvement is part of this project for me.

Anyway, on with the eco-friendly stuff: Today, I installed my new low flow shower head. It was part of the kit that I was given with the energy audit last month. Needless to say, this was a super-easy project that involved only about ten minutes, a bit of plumber's tape, and a pair of channel locks. Wham bam, done.

Testing it out was a bit more fun. It has three settings, excellent pressure, and all in all, makes for a very nice shower. The benefits are many: less water usage, less hot water and electricity used, improved pressure. As far as green projects go, this one is cheap and easy!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bike to Work Day?

According to Wired, today is bike to work day! I totally missed it!

My bike needs to get into the shop, then I will see about biking in. My guess is that it will be very good for me, fitness-wise. There are a lot of ups and downs between home and work.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Questions about the Pop Can Furnace

I had a nice note from Mark in Ontario and I thought I'd share his questions and my answers about the pop can solar furnace... It's been cloudy for a few days, so I'm not getting any free heat this week!


I saw your popcan solar furnace on your lowerfootprint.blogspot.com blog , and thought it was unique because all the other solar furnaces are for exterior installation and drilling holes in the house etc. Since we don't have any blank wall space on the south side, those plans aren't too useful. However your window version would work for us.

I'm hoping you wouldn't mind answering a few questions.

Did you put any covering over the pop cans?
What kind of hole did you put in the bottom of the cans and what tool did you use to make it?
Did you make a larger hole in the top of the cans?
What kind of glue did you use to join the cans together?

Thanks for the info.

I had the energy audit too (it cost me $375 in Ontario), and will be adding insulation to bring my attic to R50 this year.

Here's my response:

Hi Mark...

My second version will be a vertical window one, so I'll post more when I do that one...

1) Currently no covering on the pop cans. They're painted with heat-heat black bbq paint though.

2) The bottom of the cans were punched out using a "churchkey"... the can opener you'd use for opening a can of apple juice. The excess was simply folded into the can.

3) No extra hole in the top. It was part laziness, but also helps to cause some turbulence in the airflow, helping to pick up more heat perhaps. They weren't lined up or anything.

4) I taped the columns from side to side with black electrical tape. This first model is shockingly crude, but hey, it will built in about two hours, start to finish.

The new model will be an enclosed box, sized to fit vertically into a window in my solarium. It will have a glass or plexi front and top and bottom vents. I'm considering a set of shelves inside it, made of perforated material for airflow (possibly wood and my drill). The shelves would allow me to experiment with cans filled with water. I have a row of them on the windowsill and they get quite hot, but of course, keep the heat much longer.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Energy Audit

It's been so busy lately that I haven't had a chance to keep everyone up to date on the progress at home. Here's hoping I can catch up on everything in the next while.

My energy audit happened last week! Initially, I was a little underwhelmed because I had all these ideas of what cool stuff was going to be happening and that we'd been talking solar power and whether a VAWT would be a better choice. Well, we mostly talked insulation.

The good news is that my house is in pretty good shape, by all initial reports. The windows are still in decent shape (with one or two exceptions) and the house is insulated with the best available insulation in 1974. The contraption at the right is a fan unit that pressurized the whole house so we could see everywhere air, and thus heat, was leaking from the house. This part was pretty cool.

I'm waiting to receive the final report, but priority targets are as follows:

  • fill cracks and leaks throughout the house (on my own)
  • insulate the ceiling in the garage
  • a new garage door and door from the garage to the house
  • new siding and extra insulation around the outside of the house
Most of the above also bring government rebates and I have 18-months to get them done. I also need to install the remaining digital thermostats around the house. As seen previously, these pay for themselves in no time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Peak Oil and the End of Suburbia?

Okay, so this is a bit alarmist, but it's a pretty good article in Business Week.

I was struck last week when the city knew that gas was going up by 6 cents, and cars were lined up four and five deep at the stations (idling all the while, of course). It could be a vision of things to come as gas prices will continue to increase well into the summer.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day everyone! Much to report, but no time at the moment! All will be revealed shortly!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Test Driving a Hybrid - Part I

So, thanks to my house-mate, I was able test drive a 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid last night. Very fun! Here are a few pics of the car to start.

On the right is the Hybrid Synergy Drive. This is the main component of the hybrid system. One part electric motor, one part computer, one part super-battery.

In this pic to the left, you can see the Synergy Drive on the front right, nestled between the pink fluid canister and the orange cables. The rest of the car's normal combustion engine is behind and to the left of the pink canister.

What immediately struck me about this car is that it is in main respects, identical to my 1993 Camry that I still drive everyday.

So, after checking this vehicle out, I'm left with the idea that we are already in the beginning of a major transformation. The hybrids are here and before we know it, all vehicles will have this technology and in a few years, you may not be able to buy a typical vehicle without this system. For those of us who want even more efficiency, we might find versions with a few compromises in style or size, but overall, I'd expect that our average consumption of gasoline is about to go down dramatically.

In the next segment, I'll show you some of the displays within the car and what it was like to drive.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Short Film on Biofuel

I'm seriously wiped from a long day doing factor analyses of anxiety questionnaires, so I've got nothing to say, at least coherently. Luckily for me, and you, my friend Jeni just sent me this short film from Vancouver about Biofuel.

You may now discuss. I will be back as soon as I find my perspicacity.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Pop Can Solar Furnace - Hot Hot HOT!

It's beautiful, sunny spring day in Halifax. It's 9C outside, which is kind of nice, but it's been consistently sunny all day... That means the pop can solar furnace that I built is pumping out the heat. This morning, the top of the cans were too hot to touch comfortably, so I thought I would put my thermometer up there.

So this little guy maxed out above 52C! Time to ramp it up... I put a meat thermometer up there, with the probe touching the surface of the cans. Here's the result:

Yes, that reads just above 82C or about 185F!

This panel is tilted at a shallow angle, fixed in place in one of the windows of the solarium. It's completely passive, meaning that I don't have a fan or anything moving the air across the hot surface. It certainly adds to the heating of the room, but a solar driven fan would obviously be an improvement. Baked turkey anyone?

Needless to say, without a vent to be able to use this heat in a thermal siphon cooling setup, I will likely have to take the panel down or cover it for the summer. Regardless, this should mean my winter electric heating season is over. The whole house is a balmy 20 at the moment with no heat on.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Countdown to Earth Day!

I'm back, but still have much studying to do. The term is winding up quickly, but there will always be more work to do, especially to be completely ready for a statistics final that allows for up to 8 hours to finish it! Ahem.

I wanted to send a thank you to our guest blogger over the past few days. She will be contributing as her schedule allows, so you haven't seen the end of her. Also, some of the good folks over at NSCAD might be willing to contribute an idea or two this summer as well... Green with a touch of art, or is that Art with a touch of green?

Anyway, Earth Day April 22nd! It's coming up soon, so I think we will be having some sort of party here again, much like we did for Earth Hour... it's kinda the same sort of idea, only 24 times bigger! Still not sure what events will be going on, but you can check your local area here.

As part of Earth Day Canada, they are looking for nominations for Hometown Heroes. If you know of someone in your local area that has made a significant contribution to your local environment or environmental community, you should nominate them! Don't forget, I'm still looking for Eco-Heroes of my own to post on this site!

More to come... get ready for Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Switching to Greener Soap

Our guest blogger is doing dishes...?

Hello again!

Today, I went shopping. I finally picked up some eco-friendly dishwashing liquid and liquid hand soap. I opted for the non-scented hand soap, but went for the mandarin and grapefruit dish soap and quite like the smell! It's really fresh and makes me think of breakfast in the summertime. I've literally just gotten home, but gave both a test-drive and am pleased to announce that they're quality products.

The best part? Both boast being free of SLS (Sulfates) and not tested on animals. As well, they declare that they biodegrade "99% within 28 days." The price was comparable to similar products found outside of the organic department of my supermarket.

Confession time: I put off buying products such as these for a long time, as I seem to have been harbouring some nasty beliefs about organic soaps. Part of the hesitation was brand-loyalty to what I had been brought up with, but for some reason figured they'd be watery and ineffective. Not so, and hence, you're the first to witness my transformation. Consider me a changed consumer!

On that note, I've got some dishes to wash…

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Signs of Spring

Guest Blogger Arleigh continues in my place:

It's been one of those days that brings the promise of spring. There are birds chirping that I haven't heard in months and my apartment has been heated so much by the setting sun (yay, western exposure!) that I've been walking around sockless. Shocking.

This sunglasses weather is a reminder that the school year is just about over for anybody at university or college. In Halifax, this marks the end of the first year where nearly all full-time university students received Metro Transit passes for the academic year. This meant an increase in fees, but the price was dramatically reduced from that of a regular adult pass. I have my pass in my hands now, and the "Good thru April 30, 2008" is causing me much heartbreak.

Now that the academics are wrapping up, thousands of university students – myself included - are suddenly going to have to face the music of coughing up $2 per ride or finding alternative forms of transportation. I own a car, but choose not to commute to work every day. With the warmth of summer, I'm looking forward to my hour-long walk either to or from work, but in the meantime, until my schedule sorts itself out, I see a bit more driving and a bit less bus.

Alternatively, I could dig my very rusty hand-me-down bike out of storage and finally figure out how to aid in its passing to the great bike shop in the sky. Perhaps as a reward for surviving a year of my Masters, I could treat myself to a new-to-me bike!

On another note, all you Haligonians should get out to the local shops downtown and pick up a new, free "Green Guide" sponsored by The Coast. It's packed with goodies, highlighting restaurants that buy local, where you can get an eco-couch and what the deal is with recycling techie stuff. A worthy read.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Sub…

Hello class… Class! Hello? Could you sit down, pleas—Hey! No throwing! Do you want a detention? No? Well then…? Ah. Thank you.

Now then. My name's Arleigh and I'm going to be your substitute for the next few days while Mateo's slogging through his academic responsibilities. I must admit to being slightly intimidated by this task due to the rapidly expanding readership as well as the size of the shoes that have requested filling, but I'm always up for a challenge! I've got a few ideas up my sleeve. And the best part? I won't threaten to take my clothes off. Promise.

Unlike home-owning Mateo, I live in an apartment, and feel rather powerless on a number of issues. My appliances aren't energy-saving. My thermostat is as old as the building and only shuts off when I remember to flip the switch. The temperature of the hot water verges on painful. The energy waste in the public areas astounds me. Don't even get me started on sweltering stairwells.

Don't get me wrong: I'm doing my bit. I have replaced my old and energy-sucking light bulbs with energy-efficient ones. I unplug phantom-sucking appliances when they're not in use. I compost and recycle regularly.

This is where you – faithful footprint readers – come in. I need your ideas. What have you done to greenify your apartment buildings? Send along stories of how you swayed your superintendents and convinced your landlords. Where did you begin? Which battles have you won? Has there been anything your rental company has been particularly resistant to?

Hope to hear from you all soon!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

2 Minutes of Green

I hope everyone enjoyed my April Fool's Day joke. I know it wasn't something totally outrageous, but I guess I was a little surprised by how people I know took it in stride thinking that this would be something I would do. I guess it's not inconceivable. My parents offered to pay me not to.

Anyway, I am facing a rapidly finishing school term which means it is going to be very busy at both work and school for me (full time job is at a university and I am also taking some classes!). Thus, I will likely not be posting as often or as reliably for the next week or so. I'm working on lining up a guest blogger for you... watch this space.

In other news:

  • We've had visitors from all 10 provinces in Canada and from 42 US states! Now sending out welcome vibes toward the territories and Washington, Wyoming, North Dakota, Louisiana, Kentucky, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma. Are they the least green states in the Union?
  • Still maintaining 4 bus days per week. That means I've reduced my regular car usage by 80%.
  • Temperature outside is slowly coming up, but the sun is staying longer and brighter. The temperature in the sun room yesterday was 35C. Ambient temperature in the house is now around 20C without assistance.
  • Check this out: I was mentioned on Hugg.ca! Be sure to check them out, especially the "What if the environment was a person?" video.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Getting Really Serious About Going Green

Perhaps I've lost my mind or maybe I've just decided it's time to get serious about this whole project. As many of you know, two of my big passions right now are my green projects and my photography. What better way to raise awareness and funds for these projects than by combining them???

If the Lower Footprint 25kW Challenge can meet it's 3.0kW milestone by the end of the month, I will pose nude (tastefully) for a promotional photo on this blog.

Contributors who make single donations of over $100 will get their own 8x10 print of the photo, to be taken sometime in the early spring (once the weather warms up a little).

Whether you see this as an opportunity to help me make a very public statement about the environment, or a once in a lifetime chance to really embarrass (or em-bare-ass) me, every penny raised for this project will go directly toward my green initiatives.

Show your support and I'll show mine...


Update: Frankly, I'm shocked! Due to an overwhelming response (almost $2800), we've almost reached the full goal of this initiative in only one day. A few more orders and we'll be there. You can order your very own 8x10 of me, fully nude, by clicking here. Obviously, I should have set a higher goal!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Out like a lion?

March is now over and it's been a pretty busy month on the blog. Traffic is up and there has been a lot of interest generated in the local media thanks to Earth Hour. I had my "No Third Bridge" letter read on the CBC on Friday afternoon, was called for an interview for the newspaper regarding Earth Day the same night (missed the call due to attending a great lecture by William Dalrymple), had the blog featured on a local news aggregator today, and my recent article about Irving fighting the Migratory Birds Act landed me as "official blogger" of a Facebook group dedicated to that cause.

So what's a guy to do? No time to rest on my laurels. It's already three months done in this project and I still have a lot to do. Blogging is one thing, but doing stuff is the point of this endeavour. Here's what's in the works for April:

  • Energy Audit in just a few weeks. Once that's done, I'm eligible for rebates and refunds on some of these projects, so expect to see some bigger work.
  • The spending challenge (limiting and tracking my spending) is now in week thirteen. Hopefully there will be some funds available for the first couple of projects as identified by the auditor. I'm thinking windows...
  • Still some water conservation items to tackle. Once the next water bill arrives, I'll be able to start tracking my improvements there and possibly start to get a little bit nuts about it. I suspect I will become increasingly difficult to live with...
  • I'm working on a weekly report card form that I can post at the end of the week to grade myself on measurable items such as transit usage, etc. Not sure how many things are trackable on a weekly basis, but we'll give it a go.
  • Even though I'm going to be using the bus as my primary mode of transportation, I testing my car's efficiency... It's a 15 year old Toyota that is still running very well... No need to replace it yet... or is it almost time?
  • Also thinking that it's time to finally create a custom look and feel for the blog... anyone want to help me create some custom graphics? I just know I won't have the time for it this month.

I'm currently reading both Ecoholic and Living Like Ed so there are all kinds of new things I want to try.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour is... Done!

We spent a cold two and half hours sitting by the light of 3 solar garden lights and three little candles. It was a fun evening as we listened to Jill Barber on CBC and had a rambling multicultural discussion about all kinds of different topics. We were all surprised by how quickly the first hour went by and when none of the neighbours turned their lights on right away, we felt compelled to outlast at least some of them.

So, turning off the main power switch for the house is a bit extreme, but it meant that everything was off. Leaving it for more than an hour or so might have had implications on the fridge and freezer, so maybe next we'll plan better and make more ice in advance or something.

For those who think that Earth Day isn't a big deal, certainly saving 20kW of power and about $2.20 is in fact no big deal. But to have four people sitting around enjoying each other's company without any computer or movie distractions on a busy Saturday night... that's something special. In fact, this might be the start of something a little more frequent than once a year.

Earth Hour is... Now! (Almost)

15 minutes to go and I'm starting the shutdown. We're throwing the main power switch and then going to listen to a concert on my crank radio under solar powered garden lights in a solar heated room. It's going to be fun!

See you on the other side!

Top Five Things To Do During Earth Hour

8pm tonight you are going to turn all of your power off. That means no tv, no movies, no internet! What are you going to do to survive for sixty minutes while you help save the planet???

Top Five Things to do during Earth Hour:

  1. Wind up that crank radio and listen to Jill Barber on Canada Live on CBC. It was a great concert at the Cohn and you'll be able to hear me clapping in the crowd (back in February).
  2. Light a candle and play a board game with your friends and family.
  3. Tells stories in the dark like you would do when camping or when the power goes out during a storm. Bring a guitar but leave the amp home.
  4. Go for a walk and take pictures of the parts of town in darkness.
  5. It's only an hour, but you could... you know... help keep someone warm.
Top Five Things Not to do during Earth Hour:

  1. Watch CNN's coverage of Earth Hour on your big screen TV.
  2. Spend 60 minutes in a high-watt tanning bed.
  3. See how many crayons you can melt in one hour on the electric radiator with the temperature cranked.
  4. Tumble dry one item for 60 minutes on high heat.
  5. Steal the surplus energy in the power grid for your underground lab to test out your new Death Ray Weapon.
What are you going to be doing? Leave a comment below!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mass Transit In Action

I know I've made reference to it a few times, but part of my footprint reduction is to take the bus as often as possible. It's been a little bit of a struggle initially, as I get used to the routes and their timing with respect to getting to work and class and then getting home at night. This week, I managed to leave my car at home four out of five work days. I'm starting to recognize faces on the bus, so there is definitely a healthy community of mass transit commuters.

The more I do in this footprint reduction lifestyle change, the more I realize that everything I do is about improving the quality of my life, not taking something away. By taking the bus, I know I'm doing something about taking a car off the road and the associated carbon emissions and waste from being a one-person in the car commuter. But that almost doesn't matter... I enjoy taking the bus, seeing new people, passively buzzing along without having to worry about icy road conditions (even now in late March!), deep axle snapping potholes, burning $30 of gas a week, or finding a parking spot!

I find have a bit more awake time before arriving at work and I'm able to use the time to plan my day, do a little bit of meditation, or just feel like a part of a bigger community. Did I mention that I'm saving about $30 a week in gas and reducing the associated CO2?

As a small-to-medium-sized city like Halifax continues to grow, improvements to this system are essential. There is no need to be considering additional bridges or tunnels into the downtown core when only about 10% of people use the available transit system. In fact, more people walk to work! How do we change the car culture when 75% or more of commuters use their cars to get to work daily?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Earth Hour - The countdown is on!

Earth Hour is less than 48 hours away! Things are gearing up and people are getting ready to shutdown. I haven't decided yet, but the hope is that I will simply throw the breakers for my whole house for the hour. What are you planning to do?

In other updates:

  • We've reached our first milestone! So far, Lower Footprint has raised enough money to cover the expenses related to an energy audit. The next big milestone will be enough funds to finance a solar water heater. That's after the energy audit though!
  • Welcome Nevada! I don't think I've celebrated this one yet. We've had at least one visitor from the South West desert state, as well as South Africa, and a number of other places around the world. Still no one from Manitoba though! Where are you Winnipeg?
  • As the sunny days get a bit stronger, the solarium is pumping out good heat for the rest of the house. Sure, it's still only about 19C in here, but the thermostats are set at 13C and the rads are not clicking in anywhere near as often. It hit 32C in the solarium today and probably within in a month, I will be talking about over heating the room.
  • After a not so stellar week last week, I've bused it to work everyday this week except Monday. With the possible exception of Monday evenings (when I stay downtown until about 10pm), it's actually a lot easier to bus it, than to drive.
  • For you music fans out there, I'm happy to report that Halifax is in the midst of another concert announcement frenzy. Leonard Cohen sold out 5 shows last week and Bob Dylan tickets go on sale on Saturday... somehow I managed to get mine already! Woohoo! It's going to be a busy month of May.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

...Is being planned for 2016.

So my early reports were confirmed in today's newspaper.

Plans are in the works for another bridge or tunnel to South End Halifax by 2016 at a cost of $1.1 Billion dollars. Couple that price tag with an increase in construction costs, environmental impacts, maintenance, and interest on financing, and then how much does it really cost? I'm no expert, but I'm willing to bet that one could make a state of the art upgrade to our transit system that would be less expensive and probably would recoup money over the long term. More buses, more hydrogen/hybrid buses (apparently 2 are coming), and restrictions on one person per car during peak times would start dealing with this uncontrolled traffic growth. Maybe something like London's restrictions would be appropriate.

The article even suggests appropriation as the likely way that this bridge and its approaches would get started. That's probably the good news. The houses bordering the "cut" in South End Halifax house some of the wealthiest people in the city. Are they going to give up their backyards and limited traffic area for on-ramps and daily commuter congestion? I have a sneaking suspicion that the wealthiest people in Halifax won't be part of the city's next Africville.

Anyway, it's fun to scoop the local paper by 12 hours... :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Third Bridge...

I have no intention of making this blog a breaking news forum, but I just heard that the Halifax (HRM) City Council is at this hour considering a presentation about building a third bridge (or a tunnel) between Halifax and Dartmouth. This is necessary because our existing bridges (7 lanes in total) are reaching capacity. Once again, it would appear that rather than figuring out how to manage and reduce traffic and carbon emissions, our planners are ignoring the environment in favour of adapting to higher levels of traffic.

Don't ask me where the increased traffic is supposed to park.

The problem with growing your traffic infrastructure to meet increasing demand is that demand will eventually grow to fill the increase in capacity. What next? A fourth bridge? Why not actually address the underlying issue: people need to find a way to get to work. It should be cheap and convenient. It should be comfortable and accessible. It should get you to where you need to go, including being able to do the things you'd normally do, like stop for groceries on the way home, or hop cross-town for a meeting in the middle of the day. A good transit system with lots of capacity can do that. Why don't we grow that infrastructure?

Metro Transit is pretty good. I rode to work and back today, in roughly the same amount of time it would have taken me to drive - about 25 minutes.

At the risk of becoming VERY unpopular, perhaps HRM should consider closing a bridge to single car traffic. Allow carpooling, allow buses and taxis. Instead of a new bridge, let's put some good parking and some express buses at the bridges heading toward downtown. That would fix the traffic problem and save us the tens or hundreds of millions needed for a new bridge.

Time for a reality check.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Story of Stuff

Happy Easter to all and I hope everyone has been enjoying their long weekend!

Not many updates this last week as I'm in the final days of my school term with all of the requisite assignments and due dates. Trying to stay on top of all of that and make room for doing my eco-projects. All in its time, right?

Anyway, today's post is a teaser for The Story of Stuff. I think this is an important video in that it raises some issues about our consumption levels. I've been actively tracking every penny I've spent since January 6th, so I'm learning about my personal consumption in a big way. It is surprising where the money does go. Maybe I'll post a graph tomorrow... can't you wait????

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

It's the original day for going Green! Since this year's St. Patty's Day was mired in controversy because it fell within Holy Week for the first time in decades, I think we missed an opportunity to re-brand the whole day as one for CF bulbs instead of green beer and riding mass transit instead of kissing the blarney stone. Oh well. Is there a way to power your computer with the hangovers in the office tomorrow? More planning for next year.

Monday updates:

  • Lots of new visitors! Welcome Regina! That leaves only Manitoba and the Territories! Send the URL to someone you know in Winnipeg!
  • Still waiting for someone from Nevada. Send it along. New visits from Portugal and Germany. Guten tag, Jill!
  • Lots of interest thanks to the great results from my latest power bill. Keep Digg'ing the articles you enjoy so others can see them as well.
  • Good progress on the 25kW Challenge. Remember that I can always use your support to further my projects!
  • I've been chatting with my friend Jason in NB about his wickedly low power bills. Hoping that my energy audit uncovers something huge that I've missed. His bill for the last while was MUCH lower than mine.
  • Also talking with some cool folks in NYC and environs about their upcoming project. Wishing Gus and friends a lot of luck and will help in any way I can. I'll link once their blog is up and running.
  • Don't forget about Facebook! Come join us there as well.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Electricity Update

When I installed my programmable thermostats back in January, I expected to see some modest change in the amount of electricity I used over the coldest and darkest winter months. With three of the main rooms in the house (bedroom, tv room, and living room) now on programmable thermostats and many of the electronics in the house on power bars that cut off a lot of the phantom power (aka vampire power), I was hoping to see something real almost right away. Well, this morning the bill arrived by e-mail.

Comparing November - December 2007 to January - February 2008 saw a 9.4% drop in total daily electricity use, despite the fact that it was dramatically colder during the latter months and my house is heated by electricity. This represents an overall savings of 1205 kWh - that's more than 1 MEGAWATT! Granted, electricity is still pretty cheap, so my total cash savings is only about $128 (over two months), but that still means all three thermostats have paid for themselves with enough left over for any power bars I would have had to buy if I didn't have them laying around. Since I'd also converted a number of bulbs to CF, this would have helped the savings as well.

This encourages me a lot as return on investment (ROI) is the way we can justify the high initial cost of buying CF bulbs, thermostats, solar heaters and so on. Knowing that these items will eventually and actually pay for themselves means that I've made a good investment and will be likely to put more money into it as time goes by!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Water Use Calculator

I found this handy water use calculator at a BBC website (via EcoToolbox). Have a look and see how your household stacks up. The graph it produces at the end will give you a pretty good idea of what area you should focus on. Even with some of the changes I've made, the big users are still toilets and showers. Maybe it's time to start researching composting toilets?

Speaking of composting, I'm thinking of building a compost system for the house. We use the green bin pretty well now and it has cut down on the amount of waste we generate overall. The more I read about it though, I'm beginning to think of my waste as a commodity that I'm giving away for free. The design I have in my head is one with screened drawers. The last one I built was made from four wooden pallets, but that was for our country property, not for city use. This one would need to be much more contained, but still big enough to hold my autumn leaves... suggestions?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Earth Hour Canada Update

Some news in my e-mail about Earth Hour:

Canada leads in Earth Hour momentum!

Earth Hour is gaining huge momentum in Canada! More than 60 cities across Canada are taking part, encouraging their businesses and residents to participate and show support for action on climate change. Canada is also leading the world in sign-ups at earthhour.org!

Canada’s own, Nelly Furtado, multi-platinum Grammy and Juno Award-winner has signed on as the first Canadian Earth Hour Ambassador. As an Earth Hour Ambassador and an advocate for the environment, Nelly Furtado [right] will play an acoustic concert at the Earth Hour community event in Toronto, starting at 7:30 p.m. This lights-out event will be as carbon-neutral as possible – including powering the event with green, renewable energy from Bullfrog Power.

You can sign up for Earth Hour no matter where you live! The whole thing takes place at 8pm March 29, 2008.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Energy Star Ratings

I went to a presentation today as part of Dalhousie's Green Week on Energuide Audits and Energy Star ratings. It was sparsely attended, but it was good fun. The presenter was from Conserve NS and I have to say, the small group of us that were there were definitely keeners. As a result, we got to share some of our experiences measuring electricity usage and cutting back on water. Good to know I'm on the right track.

Other quick notes:
  • New visitors to the blog from Alaska, The Netherlands, Sudan, and Pakistan. Welcome all! Still waiting on Nevada. Invite someone you know in Vegas to pay us a visit!
  • Have you subscribed yet? Click the subscribe link at the bottom of this page.
  • Many new people at the Facebook group. C'mon over and chat!
  • Lights out Challenge at Risley Hall today. Couldn't find a switch for the lobby lights though!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Just Jiggle It

As I continue to look for some options on reducing my water usage, I saw mentioned on a few sites that instead of installing a retro-fit to a toilet tank or letting urine mellow, you can simply jiggle the handle after you flush normally. This causes the rubber flap to close prematurely, thereby saving you upwards of half a tank of water.

I tried it today and it worked quite well. It may take some practice to both remember to do it and to get the timing right, but it seems like a $0.00 fix. Sounds about right to me.

In other news:
  • P.E.I. is now on the list. Welcome visitors from Charlottetown!
  • I have to make a point of starting my car tonight. I haven't driven myself to work in a week. Between hitching rides and taking the bus, it's been a great seven days!
  • Lights out challenge happened today in Shirreff Hall, one of the buildings I manage. Seemed to go well. Tomorrow is Risley Hall.
  • Check out this article on how to talk to a Climate Change Sceptic.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Irving launches constitutional challenge of migratory birds act

While the purpose of my blog isn't necessarily to share news items, this one was sent to me tonight and I think it's worth posting.

Big oil and big forestry bring the anti-environmental fight to the courtroom. The message appears to be that you can do what you want for the almighty dollar. If you get caught destroying heron nests, fight it in court. If it looks like you might lose, fight the legitimacy of the law.

Shame on the Irving Companies. Boycott anyone?

Irving launches constitutional challenge of migratory birds act
Last Updated: Monday, March 10, 2008 | 9:50 AM AT
CBC News

J.D. Irving Ltd. is challenging the constitutionality of Canada's
Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Lawyers for the New Brunswick-based company have filed a notice of
motion alleging the act is too vague.

Continued at:

Various Monday Updates

It was a busy week last week and I didn't get to finish all of my water related challenges, so I'm going to keep going with them this week. I did some bill comparisons and it looks like I'm using a fair bit of water still, perhaps a bit lower than average, but still a substantial amount. Must keep working on it.

I also did some quick investigations into the 100-mile diet. Rough conclusion: I'm not ready for it yet. With projects at work and school and the fact that it is still March in Nova Scotia means that I'm going to have to study a bit more to figure out how to do it well. Regardless, I am going to be trying to incorporate more local items and less take-out food into my diet. There is talk of a local food cookbook going around Dalhousie this week. I will try to get my hands on one.

I spent a whopping $12 at Home Depot yesterday on materials for my second Pop Can Solar Furnace. While Spring is just around the corner, I'm pretty sure a few days of heat to get us through to the summer will still be beneficial. More sun now will also help! I will post pictures and perhaps video of the build when it happens.

Looking at the blog's stats and I'm pretty happy. We've had visitors from 22 different countries and many parts of Canada and the US. Some people have joined the Facebook group as well! The challenge to you this week is to help me fill in the gaps in my Visitor Map. Please share this blog with someone you know in one of these areas:

  • P.E.I. or Manitoba
  • Alaska or Nevada
  • Anywhere in Africa, Asia, or Europe
That's it for today. More to post this week as things get going!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Green Week 2008 - Events Listing & Schedule

Thought I'd drop a plug for the Green Week happening at my university next week. Can't wait for a few of the talks that I hope to get to.

Dalhousie University's Green Week is coming up next week - starting Monday, March 10th with a whole slew of events! Please find at the following links, both the EVENTS LISTING and SCHEDULE for Green Week 2008:

Events Listing

Events Schedule

We're also part of the Light's Out Challenge. Tuesday in Shirreff Hall and Wednesday in Risley Hall. Turn off your lights and computer for one hour.

Who's Your Eco-Hero?

I've been coming across an awful lot of green blogs and press and such about some fantastic people who are doing some great projects. People like No Impact Man, Vanessa at Green as a Thistle, and so many others.

I was thinking that I could feature an Eco-Hero every now and then on the website and then do a comparison between them. This would eventually generate an award of recognition from Lower Footprint.

You can nominate your Eco-Hero now by leaving a comment here or on our Facebook discussion group. I'm also interested in what categories you think are important for comparison purposes. Let me know!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Got Facebook?

Lower Footprint is now a group on Facebook. If you're already on Facebook, join the group, join in on the discussion, and share your stories of green-powered change however big or small!

Water Project Update

I thought I'd share some of the ideas that I've received for my Water Conservation project this week.

  • Dpatel recommends I try the yellow water approach in my toilet, flushing only before I go to bed.

  • Elasticsoul recommends insulating the hot water tank and re-routing grey water (water from sinks and showers) to the garden

  • Dw1ght had a whole list for me:

    Concentrate on the 5 BIG water uses in the home: Turf, Toilets, Showers, Laundry, Dishwashers!
    1. If you irrigate turf, stop it! (I don't. NS gets enough rain)
    2. Replace toilets with HET models that use less than 1.3 gallons per flush (working on it)
    3. Replace shower heads with 2.0 gallon/per minute heads. Turn off shower flow while lathering hair and body. (working on it, <5 minute showers anyway)
    4. Replace standard 45 gallon/ load clothes washer with new 20 gallon per load model. Only wash full loads. (doing it already)
    5. Do not rinse dishes before loading into dishwasher. Scrape the dishes with a spatula into garbage pail. Do not use garbage disposal. Only wash full loads. (yup - check)

    Do all these things and you will reduce water use by more than 35%.
  • Finally, my cousin Frank recommended an interesting approach:

    Just an idea - but with multiple toilets in the house, why not use 2 bottles in one so it goes super low flow and restrict that one to number 1 only - that way - little water and you don't have to let it mellow.
So I thought that was a pretty good idea, but I think I need to come up with a good sign to post above the toilet, or risk some plumbing issues. Any funny ideas? Here are my two:
  • Sh*t Happens, but not here.
  • We're #1! Take your #2 somewhere else.
Post your funny ideas in the comments section!

Finally, here's a list of similar recommendations from Natural Resources Canada. They pretty much say the same thing as Dw1ght, so we're looking in the right direction. Time to go gather some water displacing bottles.

PS: Next week is Green Week at Dalhousie. Here's the line-up of events on the Green Week 2008 Facebook group.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Project: Water Water Everywhere

This week, I'm going to be starting my water challenge, aiming to reduce the amount of water my house uses for everything. Compared to some statistics I've seen,I use a reasonable amount of water, so gains might not be that dramatic, but as with everything, a little bit helps.

While I'm a bit loathe to consider the "if it's yellow, let it mellow" philosophy, I know there are at least two ways to reduce the impact of my flush. First, I'm going to reduce the size of my toilet tank by displacing water with a 1 or 2 litre bottle inside. That will be the first step. With four toilets in the house, I'm also going to check to make sure none of them are leaking by using food dye.

At some point in the future (perhaps via the 25kW Challenge), I will replace some toilets with low-flow, efficient models. Hopefully with ones that include a two-flush option... one half-flush for the aforementioned "yellow" variety and a full-flush for the other.

Apparently, Ed Begley gives these toilets away, so if he and Rachelle are ever in the neighbourhood or want to come to Nova Scotia for a visit, I'd happily take them on a tour. Consider this an official invitation!

Of course, the rest of the week will bring other related projects. I need to check my shower heads, look for leaky faucets, and the rest. Have you done a water audit? Let me know what else to check!

In other news, I wanted to thank everyone for their support of the 25kW Challenge to date. Keep it up!

Also, I'm looking at doing the 100-Mile diet for a week... Maybe next week. Could be a way to learn some new tricks or lose some weight... Not sure how to manage the coffee part of it though. Does locally roasted, fair trade count for anything???

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Review: From My Bottom Step

The citizens of London, Ontario need look no further than the website, From My Bottom Step, to get local information, news, and opinion - including ways to green your lifestyle. Local blogger Greg highlights news that we all can use, from fire safety to curbing traffic congestion.

One thing I particularly like about this site is how it blends a wide variety of relevant social issues with a lot of humour. From My Bottom Step supports a number of green issues including Free Public Transit along with pedestrian rights.

While I'm also a regular viewer of XKCD strips which are featured from time to time on Greg's site, I was happy to be reminded of BookCrossing, a book exchange service which releases books into the wild so they can be enjoyed again. How's that for good recycling?

If you're from the London area, or just want to get a glimpse of local issues there, check out From My Bottom Step.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Should I Be Boycotting the Oscars?

I'll admit it. I watched the Oscars last night. While I was disappointed that local girl Ellen Page didn't win, I was mildly entertained for the evening. Yes, I'm a movie geek.

After 4 hours, I began to wonder, what is this costing in terms of carbon footprint? For me, I already know it's not much. Maybe $0.06 worth of electricity total and I'll make up for that by turning off the power bar when I'm done.

But what about the massive number of viewers around the world? You always hear about the 2 -3 BILLION people that watch the Oscars, a number that seems quite high for me considering that only 1 or 2 in ten Americans watch the show, the rest of the world would have to tune in en masse despite the fact that the Oscar-nominated films are largely in English and are on television during the middle of the night or the work day for most of the planet.

So let's assume, conservatively then, that only 100 million people watched the broadcast worldwide. Based on figures from CarbonFootprint.com, you could estimate that the watching of the Oscars would have been responsible for 43,200 tonnes of CO2 (assuming an average of 2 people per tv).

0.2kW x 4 hours x 50,000,000 tv sets x 1.08 kg/kW = 43,200,000 kg of CO2

Even if we blindly deny the impact of CO2 on the environment, this still represents $9,000,000 worth of electricity spent on watching one television program. That a lot of wasted opportunity. What if it was 2 billion viewers?

And I haven't even mentioned the costs of the production (which were greener this year), the one-use gowns, the transportation and flights to make it happen.

Maybe we should celebrate that the early reports suggest it was an all time low viewing audience. Next year, I'll read the results the next day.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Challenges You Can Do Too

Are you looking for a challenge to do? Something to kick start your eco-friendly change? Look no further because the web has a lot to offer. Here are three challenges I've joined this week:

  • Greenpeace has a seven week challenge called 7 Steps that will send you a new challenge each week by e-mail. Each one gives you some information on a particular topic and gives you a simple task to complete. I can't wait for my second e-mail!

  • Earth Hour is coming up in only another month. This challenge gets you to turn off your power for one hour starting at 8pm on March 29, 2008. This video shows where it all started last year:

  • Finally, I also joined the Freeze Yer Buns challenge over at Crunchy Chicken. I dropped the thermostats another two degrees to exceed that challenge's targets (13C and 19C). A warm sweater does wonders.

Do you know of any challenges that I haven't heard of yet? Leave me a comment and I'll see if I can sign up!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Project: Power Bars

In combination with the energy meter I've been using, I was able to determine which devices in my house use phantom power even when the item is off. By connecting all of the items to a power bar and turning it off when not in use, you can turn that phantom power to zero. A good move.

The good news is that any cheap power bar will do the trick. The return on investment (ROI) is less than a year since you will save $10 - $15 or more per set. Spend less than that amount on your power bar, and your ROI is even shorter. You can buy a fancy power bar if you want to though. Some will even turn off peripheral devices when you power down the main machine.

This is one of those really simple things that you can do immediately with little or no investment (you probably have a few power bars already!). It's only a small drop, but it is enough to remove roughly 0.15 tonnes of CO2 from your footprint per year!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My Crank Radio

This one might take a few years to make a significant difference in energy consumption:

My Crank Radio

I bought this crank radio for my emergency kit. We tend to get some nasty weather during the fall and winter, so I wanted to have a radio and light for those nights when the power goes down. Since then, it's become part of the my day to day routine. I keep it next to my computer, so I get to listen without draining any more power.

A nice side benefit is that as the battery drains down, I get a reminder to take a break and move away from the computer! It certainly helps avoid that stiff neck and eye strain!

Roughly 30 cranks gets me 15 minutes of listening time at a decent volume.

Daily radio for zero new emissions. That's good math.

Get one like it at ThinkGeek and support the 25kW Challenge.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Update: Pop Can Solar Furnace

It's a bright sunny day in Halifax, so the pop can solar furnace is working at full tilt.

The temperature in the solarium is over 25C and the spill over has boosted the dining room to 21.8C. Since warm air rises, the upstairs of the house is 20.6C. This would be further enhanced by a fan, but it's pretty good for just passive. Free heat!

For comparison, the current outdoor temperature is 4C.

Monday, February 18, 2008

25kW Challenge: Store Now Open

The next option in the 25kW Challenge is now available! You can now support my eco-friendly projects by buying an attractive T-shirt or Shopping bag at the Lower Footprint store:

Each purchase contributes 5W to the 25kW total and proudly features the 5W confirming your contribution and the blog's address. The back says "Lower your ecological footprint" and the blog's address.

Various styles are available. Prices range from $13.99 for a value t-shirt to $24.99 for the organic cotton tee. It makes a great gift!

Project: Programmable Thermostats

Part of the reason I'm tackling this whole endeavour is due to the fact that my house is heated by electricity. Yes, I know. Very expensive, or at least it could be. One way to counter the fast spinning meter on the side of the house is to install programmable thermostats.

Each room that has a thermostat can now be set independently and it can be pre-set for different times of day. For example, my bedroom is set to be warm (19C) in the evening and early morning, and low (15C) overnight and when I'm at work. Rather than keeping an empty room warm 24 hours a day, I know I can heat it only when I need it. In combination with the right insulation (or plastic assistance), the room heats up very quickly.

One of the nice things is that anyone can simply up the heat in the room they want to use. Feeling cold while watching TV? Up the heat to 20C or more. At the beginning of the next time cycle, the heat jumps back to its usual setting. No more forgetting to turn the thermostat down!

I'll report back after my first set of power bills come in.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Green ESL Students

My Lower Footprint blog was chosen for an ESL learning activity at a local university. It's a chance to practice English and learn about something green. What follows is the background information for the instructor's activity. Enjoy!

I understand. When you came to Halifax to study English, saving the world wasn't exactly a priority. Your goals were to find your way around, try to understand your teacher, and to get into a routine. Meeting new people and doing your homework took precedence over being environmental. Besides, Canada isn't your country. Why should you bother to recycle at all? You buy bottled water, you throw your Coke cans and paper into the garbage and you complain when the teacher double-sides any copies she gives you, because it's harder to read.

However, eventually, you settle into a pattern and you become more comfortable with your surroundings. Things outside of your classrooms start becoming more important to you. You notice that St Mary's University has recycle bins, and there are even divided garbage and recycle bins on Spring Garden Road! Interesting? Maybe not, but taking the initiative to follow the recycling rules of your new city is your responsibility. While choosing to put a pop can into a recycling bin downtown may not directly affect you or your grandchildren, it will be one small puzzle piece in the bigger picture.

What can you do, then? Where do you start?

Here's some food for thought:
  • Talk to locals and learn what they do
  • Drink water from the kitchen tap (it's safe - honest!)
  • Buy some containers to carry your lunch instead of using plastic bags
  • Bring your backpack when you go shopping, or buy re-usable bags from your supermarket instead of using plastic
Now return to the worksheet Arleigh gave you and follow the instructions! Learn stuff! Have fun! Be green!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The 25kW Challenge

To celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, I am launching the 25kW Challenge.

Through the savings generated by the projects featured on Lower Footprint, the revenue from ads, sales, and donations, I will be re-investing the funds into my Lower Footprint projects. Since the current price of PV solar panels is about $1 per W, I am estimating that to go off-grid today would cost me about $25,000, thus the 25kW challenge.

You can help me out in the following ways:
  • Visiting my sponsors by clicking on an ad. Once per day only, please!
  • Making a purchase at one of our online retail partners (i.e. Think Geek).
  • Buy Lower Footprint 5W merchandise (Lower Footprint Store)
  • Buy a great green book or DVD (Lower Footprint Bookstore)
  • Buy an Amazon Gift Certificate (below)
  • Make a donation through PayPal.

Part of the whole idea behind Lower Footprint is to make this off-grid, lower consumption project a reality as cheaply as possible. If I can make it happen for less, I will donate any excess funds to an appropriate charity that furthers these same ideals!

Just noting here that in a few places around the web, I've been mistakenly called "Mateo York"... just wanted to mention it here for the search engines...

Project: Plastic on Drafty Windows

A little bit of plastic goes a long way. Since this is my first winter in this house, I found that some of the original windows could use a little help keeping the heat in and the cold out. Plastic sheeting to the rescue!

Since window kits cost upwards of $15 for a few windows, I bought a roll of plastic (I think it's vapour barrier) and two rolls of tape for about $20. This should be enough for years of window covering, more if I reuse any of it.

Tackling the draftiest rooms first, I was able to dramatically reduce heat loss. I still have one window to tackle. Maybe a good project for today!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Project: Energy Audit

I booked my home energy audit today through Clean Nova Scotia. I have to wait until April, so if you've been stalling on booking yours, go for it now. It's about a two month wait! It also costs $150 to have the audit done, but it will be well worth the money!

Once this inspection is done, I will get a report that outlines where I can make improvements and I will have 18-months to qualify for any rebates that are available. Time to start pricing that solar hot water system!

I'll report more as this will be an ongoing project. Step 1: Book the Audit - Check!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bottled Glacier Water? No thanks.

I was driving to Yarmouth on Friday and my traveling companion bought some stale Nibs and some luxury, glacier-made, bottled water. After reading about the high cost of bottled water, I had some basic information so we chatted about it for a bit.

Since my green kick started, my water cooler in the kitchen has been unplugged. Tap water is fine for my coffee.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Green TV: Living with Ed

Part of this project involves doing some pretty mundane things or sitting in rooms that are, well, cold most of the time. I find it easier to bear some of the growing pains of the project by watching a little inspiration. Living with Ed chronicles the environmental projects of Ed Begley around his home:

TV and movie actor Ed Begley, perhaps the greenest man in Tinsel Town, rides his electric car to the Academy Awards and powers his home with the sun and his stationary bike. But Living with Ed and his environmentalist passion isn't always a walk in the park for wife, Rachelle. This first-of-its-kind reality green show chronicles life with an earth-friendly fanatic with humor and heart.

You can call this celebrity Green TV as I know that Ed's pockets are much deeper than mine. It is fun to watch some of the projects and practical realities of taking this whole thing to the next level. I might not be ready to peddle for my toast just yet.

Check out the website and the dvd - loaded with great tips. The show airs on Sunday night on HGTV.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Pop Can Solar Furnace

I first read about the pop can solar furnace a few days into the new year. Since this was a relatively easy project, I decided to give it a try in my solarium.

The sun room on the corner of my house isn't especially well insulated, but it does heat up pretty quickly when it gets sunny - often as high as 20C even if it is below 0C outside. I figured if this device worked at all, I could open the sliding door on sunny days and let the free heat spill into the house.

As you can see from the pictures, the build was a little crude, but it used only recycled materials that were on hand and paint that cost about $7. It took about three hours to make, with two helpers working for an hour each cutting the bottoms out of cans.

Since it's been installed, it has been helping to heat up the area and any day that is sunny, the solarium gets to about 25C. The shallow angle of the panel means it isn't working as effectively as it could, so the next one will be built in one of the south-facing windows.

Since the interior of the house is set for about 15C during the day, the solarium boosts it to 19-20C on a sunny day just by opening the door. The next major part of this project is to install a passive duct or solar powered fan that will push the warm air in without having to open the door. If anyone knows of a decent design for a room to room stratification trap, please let me know!

Energy Counting

Did you know that you can get an energy metre from your local library for free? In Nova Scotia you can, thanks to Conserve NS.

After a two or three week wait, I now have one taking measurements all over the house. So far, it has confirmed two things:

  • Electronic devices use a lot of phantom power. Switching them off by using a power bar can save $20 a year per tv/dvd set. More if you turn off the satellite or cable box too.

  • All of my "luxury" items like tv, computer, and so forth are minor. Combined, I expect them to represent about 10% of my annual spending on electricity. Heat and hot water account for the vast majority of it.
This means my next investigation will be for solar hot water heating or pre-heating. I'll post about my solar heating project soon.

Don't want to wait? Buy a Kill-A-Watt at ThinkGeek and support this project.

A little catching up to do

I have a little bit of catching up to do because I'm already about a month into my new year's resolution of lowering my footprint in 2008 and I haven't blogged any of January at all. I'll get to those projects and pictures as soon as I can. But better to get started now.

So here's the deal: I've decided to make reducing my footprint a serious part of my life in 2008. I can't say I will be the model eco-citizen or anything, but I am going to do some interesting things, make some interesting changes and mistakes, and maybe learn a few things along the way. I know a lot of die-hards or armchair critics will take issue with some of the choices I make, but my goal is not to satisfy them or hold myself up as the gold standard. I plan to make as many positive changes as I can without unnecessarily changing my lifestyle. Another way of saying that is that I plan to make incremental, sustainable changes, not changes that will be like fads or diets, here today and gone tomorrow.

I also have a little catching up to do in general. I have a typical, heavy consumer lifestyle and I realize how far I have to go. So, until I muster the courage to live in a yurt and grow my own food and clothes, this will be record of my efforts.