Archive for August, 2008

You Know Who You Are

For the person who found my blog with the search term “can you eat tomatoes eaten by squirrels”, here is my answer:

1) Yes, technically it is possible.

2) Ew.

Quack Nostrums

I actually managed to catch a few of the DNC convention speeches this evening, since my class let out early.  I  enjoyed Harry Reid’s accurate summary of the dangers of our oil-based economy, and a scathing indictment of the politicians who’ve encouraged that dependence.  Special love is reserved for McCain’s offshore drilling proposals: Reid dubs it snakeoil, purveyed by kindly old Doc McCain as a magic elixir to cure what ails.

Hee hee. Though really, it’s only funny until you realize that kindly old Doc McCain is seriously proposing this as a solution to our energy crisis, and his party is actually rabidly behind him on it.

In conclusion,

The simple fact is that the promise of more oil isn’t part of the solution; it’s part of the problem. At best, this is an 18th-century answer to a 21st-century crisis; at worst, it’s pure baloney.

Transcript from Politico is here, and your video:

PS. Yes, he used the phrase quack nostrums!  Good phrase, Harry!

Not That You Asked

But in case you were dying to know what the most eco-friendly application plug-ins for facebook were, Huffpost has got you covered.

Green Design in my Basement: Part 3

Part the last, mostly dealing with my decision to invest in a minifridge.

Minifridges are great.  They combine fridges, which make wonderful things wonderfully cool, with tiny-and-cuteness.  But:  1) There’s already a fridge upstairs, and 2) I bought it from Walmart.

Now, the fridge upstairs is usually full, and I can barely squeeze in OJ, milk, and a tupperware container or two.  With a fridge in my basement, my food is easier to access, they have more space upstairs, and I have plenty of room to keep beer and leftovers for lunches.  Upstairs, space is not guaranteed.  So, while the fridge was not necessary for survival, it solved lots of potential problems for everybody in the house.

Now, as to Walmart:  Since I decided on getting the fridge, it needed to be efficient.  I did some research on small Energy Star fridges.  Haier makes a 4ft^3 one with a tiny freezer, and it uses 270kwh a year.  That was about as low as I found on the EnergyStar site- Samsung and Sub-Zero also have a few models with very low energy usage.  Most minifridges with EnergyStar ratings use above 300kwh a year.  When I was trying to figure out where to buy it, however, Walmart came back as the area store that actually stocked Energy-Star minifridges, and they had the Haier model available online with free site-to-store shipping.  Go figure.

This maybe should not be a surprise, though.  Walmart has been making impressive efforts to add ecofriendliness to their entire process- pushing organics and CFLs on their customers, installing solar panels on their stores, bullying their suppliers into more environmentally friendly packaging, and so on.  Since they’re the hugest retail chain ever, this is having a massive impact on the supply and purchase of green goods around the country.  I’m all for supporting companies who are actually making big, helpful environmental changes, and I like to communicate my support by buying green products I need from them.

But.  But! Of course, these green initiatives are not without their mistakes.  Plus, Walmart is intensely skeezy to their workers.  I’ve read the Ehrenreich book, I keep up with their latest anti-union antics, and they’re still mostly selling cheap junk from China.  Also, their teen fashion section is terrifying.  I get all the very good reasons to not support them, or the way they run their business.

Here’s the conundrum.  Few places sell the eco-friendly things that I want.  But finally, a nearby store with the minifridge that only uses $24 of electricity a year!  Why does it have to be Walmart that’s providing the stuff I want?

So, there.  I’ve given you the various impulses surrounding my decision, I’ve told you how it worked out (I bought it, and it’s awesome, and having it’s made lunches much easier).  Under the same set of circumstances, I bet a lot of environmentally concerned types would have done the same thing- and many wouldn’t have gotten the fridge at all.  Some people might have searched further afield for it, or settled for a different model.

It’s hard to know the right thing to do when faced with these questions.  The answer lies somewhere between primitivism and consumer excess, and just where depends on what your particular priorities are.  Waste less water?  Buy only reusables?  Make it yourself? Buy nothing?  Recycling fiend?  Some combination of the above?  I think the act of carefully weighing the different impacts of your decisions is about 60% of the way to making a good one.  Which, I hope, is why I spend so much time agonizing over some of mine.

How To Start Biking To Work

This isn’t going to work for everybody, but if you live within biking distance (and in the vein of Stephen Wright, anywhere’s biking distance, if you’ve got the time) and have a place to de-sweat at or near your work, you can bike to work.  Here’s what you need to get started.

1) A good map of bike-friendly routes in the area.  Alexandria’s is here.  The rest of the Greater DC region can be found here.  If you don’t have a safe bike trail or wide streets or a dedicated bike lane, you can substitute nerves of steel and ride on regular streets.

2) Know your traffic safety laws for bikes.  Here are Virginia’s.

3) Get a few pieces of gear.  You need, minimum, a bike, a lock, and a helmet.  Check out used bike shops and Craigslist.

For safety reasons, you’ll also want to have reflectors, a headlight (white LED light), a blinking taillight (red LEDs), a tire pressure gauge and tire pump, and a basic set of tools for changing tires (patches, those wedge doohickies you pull off the tire and tube with).  This stuff can generally be found at a big box place, but you’ll get good (if rabid) advice from a local bike shop.  Things will be more expensive there, of course, so weigh your wallet vs. the benefits of supporting local shops.

Second-tier useful bike stuff: a car bike rack, in case you need to be picked up sometime.  A basket or under-seat baggie or panniers for carrying your bags around.  A padded seat cover, self-explanatory after a bumpy ride.

4) FInd a helpful cyclist.  Maybe someone at your work rides in, or one of your friends is handy with bikes.  Talk to them, get their advice, and maybe even take them gear shopping with you.

Not sure if you know a cyclist?  Do you know anyone with really well-developed thighs?  Do you know anyone who’s oddly comfortable with spandex?  How about helmet hair?  Look for clues like these.

It’s a pretty simple program, and it works for me. Any other tips, cyclists?

Green Design, In My Basement: Part 2

Back to eco-lovely ways I decorated my place:

The New Stuff:  New room, new configuration, so I went shopping on Craigslist.

I had my eye on a large open bookcase from Ikea for a room divider, and it turns out Craiglist is an already-asembled-Ikea outlet.  Type in any of their odd product names and there are probably four or five people in the area selling one.  This works with Crate and Barrel and whatever other brands you might be looking for, also.  I got my gigantor bookcase/room divider, delivered, for less than the cost of picking up the flat pack down in Woodbridge.  Then I sold an old chair, and bought a rug. I also bought a microwave from my officemate, who was about to list it on Craigslist.

If you haven’t used the site before, take a look around.  You can search all kinds of wants- cars, furniture, clothing, jobs, apartments, dates- and list anything you have to offer, for free.  Put up pictures of your stuff and everything.  It can be frustrating, since some listings are gone sooner than you’d think, and some sellers and buyers are flighty- but ask for cash and meet in public places or take a friend to exchange items, and you’ll save yourself a good deal of trouble, plus get cheap nice stuff.

I have two rugs I’d like to put up for sale, but they both smell like dog right now, so I’m trying to fix that to raise their asking price (from $0 to anything.  Old dog smell is awful, and I would not wish it on any but my worst enemies, or maybe Stephen Johnson, head EPA obstructer).

I love shopping second-hand: thrill of the chase, thinking of ways to refashion old things to make them awesome, finding bits I never expected.  If this does not sound thrilling to you, get thee to a brand-specific search.  Or, at the least, sell the stuff you’re replacing, and keep it out of a dump.  People like me want it.

Last Installment: Big Decisions, Little Fridge

Finally, A Farmer’s Market for Lazeabeds

There are a couple of great farmer’s markets in Alexandria, but nothing for those of us who hate greeting the day until it’s having a midlife crisis.  I slept through the Old Town Farmer’s Market (City Hall Plaza, 5-10:30am Saturdays) for a few months, and now I’ve moved I’ve been sleeping through the Del Ray Farmer’s Market (Oxford and Mt. Vernon, 8am-12 Saturdays).  As of last Wednesday, though, I have no more excuse to not get my fresh, local veggies.

The Upper King Street Farmer’s Market just opened up, Wednesdays 2-7pm at 1806 King St, which is right near that big metal hat sculpture in front of King St. Metro.  It’s open every Wednesday through October 29th, which is great, because that means Halloween is on a Friday this year.


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