Archive for July, 2009

Home Again

climate change ahead

On the street near my hotel in Auckland, NZ.

Progress: Hurried

Heading out the door soon, but before I go, it’s a new month, so goal summary:  I turned on my AC that once, but otherwise the no-AC thing hasn’t been horrendous, except for not sleeping.  I’m heading to the antipodean winter, too, so AC becomes moot for a couple weeks.  Certainly won’t be on here while I’m gone.  As for everything else, vegetarianism, check, carbon offsets, getting done, yeah.  Let’s describe last month as distracted, but tending in a positive direction.

New monthly goal- sustainable travel!  I clearly spent days coming up with that one.  On my trip, beyond the carbon offsets and the personal offsetting fun, I’m going to examine all my touristy choices.  Choosing local places with green missions, and not big chains, for instance.  Buying souvenirs from real NZ type people, not imported trinkets.  Respecting the local environment by not kicking a moa. Etc.  I’m sure I’ll think of more there, and it’s possible I’ll get a chance to post while away, so I may even share.  But for the next couple weeks, be pleasently surprised by updates, instead of expecting them?

Pre-trip breakfast (the tomatoes came along just in time):

pre trip breakfast

Have a great weekend!

The Way of All (Tomato-y) Flesh

independance breakfast

Breakfast to start my July 4th weekend- late as I just recovered my camera from the party.  Wanna see 100 pictures of mostly blurry but occasionally awesome fireworks?

I bet you do.

Still have two reddish fruits on the healthy tomato plant- they have until Friday morning to get nice and delicious for me.

Carbon Offsets: Theory

Yeah, finally- I fly out in four days  (:D!).

Ahem.  Today, theories of offsetting carbon- what counts?  Do you have to buy ‘offsets’ specifically? Why not just donate to environmental projects and call it a day?  How does one decide how much to give?  What do you mean by ‘offset’ anyway?

Think it might help to answer my last question first.  A carbon offset is a financial transaction where you pay some person money to do something that will cancel out the “extra” carbon you’re creating by doing what it is you want to do.  So the total amount of greenhouse gases released in the world doesn’t go up at all when you do that thing you want to do.  It only really works, though, if by paying someone an offset, you reduce ghg emissions that wouldn’t have been reduced without that payment.  Your payment should spur new emissions reductions.  Wikipedia has some more information here.

So, ok, in order to really offset emissions, you have to figure out how much you’re emitting by doing a thing, then you have to find someone to pay some money to, to remove that amount of emissions from the earth.  Plenty of companies will take your money for this, and there are plenty of projects out there that claim to offset your emissions based on donations.  But they don’t all actually work.  Business Week enumerated some examples of shady deals in 2007.  There are third-party verifications of offsets out there, but they’re not always accurate- even the Kyoto Protocol’s standards, CDMs, seem to have funded some sketchy projects in hindsight.  If you pick a project or just pay an offset broker, do your homework.  That’s why they invented the internet.  Double check everything.

For what it’s worth, No Impact Man, who’s wrestled with this much longer than I have, likes E+Co offsetting projects.

Right, so, it’s simple to find someone who will tell you how much money to give them to maybe, possibly, make your carbon go away.   It’s slightly harder to double-check them.  But that definition of “offset” is clearly too easy, and maybe you weren’t bored by this post yet.   Let us mull other things.

When I first blogged my offsetting intentions, intrepid commenter bullmooser suggested I look into ways to fund projects that would not just offset ghg emissions, but look to find ways to make flying more sustainable in the first place.  Fund research for electric planes or magic baggies to put over engines to capture the emssions or something.  I really like that idea, but it’s certainly harder to verify that your contribution did the equivalent of ‘offsetting’ that way, especially since it will take at least years for the technologies to come to fruition.

And what if you just used the money to start a vegetable garden instead, and home-farmed your way to lower emissions?  Again, less third-party checking on that, but it would help out, and make your life more sustainable in more ways than just emissions.  You’re going to have to grow a lot of tomatoes before it starts technically canceling out a flight, though.  Plus, just like brokered offsets don’t count unless the payment has specifically triggered greater ghg reductions, for personal offsetting, you’d want to start a new ‘project’ in response to emissions-heavy plans you’ve made.  My personal offsetting would be going vegetarian for a bit, then.

With a personal offsetting project like one of those, the necessary lifestyle changes force one to directly acknowledge the consequences of an emissions-filled life.  It seems more real, and respectable.  Like doing your own laundry instead of paying someone to do it for you (even though the people you pay make it smell so nice and always get it cleaner).

I’m gonna go with a mix of easy and verifiable offsets, and personal offsetting projects.  That works best for me.  If you find a mix that works for you, I’d be interested to hear it.  I’ll put up another post about whatever offset I do end up buying later.

Awesome Ladies Pushing Recycling Door To Door

Their apartment complexes didn’t have decent recycling programs, so they’re training residents themselves!  Rock on awesome ladies, you inspire and humble me.

Trials, Errors, Coping Mechanisms

I’ve been struggling a little with both the No-AC and the vegetarian thing (only 10 days of that left!) lately.

First, the AC.  I haven’t turned it back on- with just a fan it was even nice enough for about seven of us to brunch in the apartment Sunday afternoon.  But for about two weeks I couldn’t sleep, because of both the heat and humidity, and the means I use to keep it under control.

Normally, I fall asleep like dead within a couple minutes of laying down.  I like sleeping, and I’m very good at it.  But with the noise of the fan or two, light and more noise from the open window (it’s above a parking lot), and plenty on my mind, I tossed around for hours.  I tried different combinations of window coverings, fan positions, sheets, and such.  Putting the fan in the window made things a little easier- at least the noise was all coming from the same place.  Really, though, the thing that’s made it noticeably better is that it’s getting cooler now at night- less humid and with a nice breeze, and we’re down into the 70s.  Back to death sleep the past couple nights, so that’s a win, but I can only hope it doesn’t get bad again.

It’s with walking or biking to work, or trying to cool my house, that I notice how I am no longer impervious to weather.  I’ve taken for granted not having to pay attention to it for years, since somebody made it obsolete for us, with climate control.  For about 2 seconds, I feel like a pioneer, struggling against the elements, but then I remember I can to drive my car to a grocery store to buy ‘food’ I’d have no idea how to make for myself.  Then I remember why I like not being a pioneer.

Speaking of ‘food’, know how I’m bad at balancing my diet?  Anyway, I forgot to eat anything with protein in it for four or five days, and felt terrible, after- no protein, no sleep, rough week- so last week I stocked up on soy patties.  They’re breaded, and the people who make them pretend they’re chicken.  They don’t taste anything like chicken, for the record: they taste like chewy breaded protein, and they’re not awful with ketchup.  Ketchup raises them to ‘forgettable’.  And now when I forget to eat real food, I can fix it by nuking some more fake food and getting my protein fix.  This is not precisely a dietary victory, I know.  But it works for me- easy enough even I’ll take the time to eat the stuff I need.

It does make me curious though- it’s a soy patty.  It’s not chicken.  The only reason we buy them is because they’re not chicken.  If we could have chicken, we’d buy that.  But we want the soy.  What’s wrong with calling a breaded soy patty just that?  It is to assuage the doubts of hesitant defectors-from-meat like myself?  Because I’m only left wondering how bad it would taste if they didn’t try to make it like fake chicken.  More ketchup would fix even that though, I bet.

I’ve got fake burgers to try after the fake chicken runs out.  I think the emotion that creates in me is resigned optimism.

Onward and upward, we hope, but on these two resolutions, I’d be fine with my current stalemate.

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