Archive for the 'water' Category

Plane Tickets: Putting the Guilt to Use

While sick and babbling at you the other day, I mentioned my tickets to New Zealand.  Not just the ravings of a madwoman:  I have plane tickets to New Zealand.

I’ve always wanted to get out and see the world, but I wanted to pay my own way, and go in as untouristy a manner as possible.  So I waited, saved, and assumed a better time would come along.  It didn’t, but now I have a passport and a twenty-fifth birthday approaching, and it’s now or never.  Well, probably not ‘never’, but definitely later.  I emailed an old friend in NZ for some advice a couple weeks ago, and, having been promised hiking and penguins, bought the tickets Sunday.

Let me digress for a moment to direct you to the new link, Cr!key Creek.  It’s my kiwi friend’s blog on water issues- focus on NZ, but he gets around.  Along with all the other parts of this trip I am completely excited about, hanging out with a  dude who’s done so much work on sustainability ranks pretty high.

But see, now I have a dilemma.  I’m flying halfway across the world twice.  This is a big ol’ suckerpunch to my environmental changes.  According to Terrapass, by flying roundtrip from Washington to Auckland, I’m responsible for 7,120 lbs of carbon emissions.  That’s like driving my car (Civic Hybrid) around for a year (also according to Terrapass).  Actually, hey, I thought it was going to be more like driving a Hummer to the moon.  Not feeling quite so guilty now.

Well, either way, that’s a pretty big negative impact on the environment, which I need to do something about (blog being all about channeling the guilt to environmental use, yup yup).  But what!?

Rhetorical, I’ve already decided what I’m going to do.  But first let’s talk about the “not going” option.

The simplest way to not rack up this carbon guilt is to not go to New Zealand.  Stay home, find some pictures of it online, and email the kiwi when I want to chat.  Going to New Zealand to bum around and walk on mountains is purely a privileged, selfish act.  Money would be better spent donating to local food shelters while I spend the two weeks volunteering to muck out the Anacostia.  This is all true.  But I don’t feel guilty about that at all:  I’m stoked about every part of this trip.

Mine is not an abstemious sustainability.  Perhaps you guessed from the frequent Salvation Army trips.  I want to do as much and live as well (according to my idea of well) as I can with as little as I can manage it on.   I get that lots of environmentalists aren’t comfortable with that balance, and why, but I am. So let’s recap the guilt nuances:  trip to NZ, sweet, impact of ghg emissions, lame sauce.

Here’s how I’m going to use this:  first, I’m going to offset my carbon.  Yup, can’t buy a green conscience, but if I can afford the tickets, I can afford to support serious emissions-reduction programs.  I will look for programs that actively remove emissions and donate enough to cover my flight.  I’ll report back, of course.

Second, my time in NZ will be spent environmentally.  Start with supporting the local economy- no chain hotels or restaurants, no ‘Made in China’ junk for the folks back home.  I’m researching B&B’s to stop in along the way.  I’ll tread lightly on the mountains- pack in, pack out, pat the trees soothingly, etc.  I’ll use public transport as much as possible (apparently they have a great national bus system, so no need to rent a car).

And third, I’m using the promise of this trip as a carrot for my efforts.  Literally.  I’m going vegetarian, starting as soon as I’m done with the Sha Cha chicken delivery leftovers, until I get on the plane.  Doesn’t seem so daunting now- though I will draw a line at pizza (I’ll try for all-veg but if it’s plain cheese or pepperoni only, like I’m locked in a room for 12 hours with nothing but a cheese pizza and a pepperoni pizza, I’m eating the pepperoni, but it’s not going to come to that), and food other people make for me in good faith.  If I go home and Dad cooks me shrimp, I’m having some shrimp.  (Dad cook me veggies.  Mom will help.)  But I promise 98.9% vegetarian intake, at least.  It’ll be easier with a reward at the end.

So that’s how I’m going to deal with that.  For the interactive part of this feature:  whatcha think?

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Progress: All Washed Up

So this month I was supposed to be reducing my water usage and refining my relationship with what I wash down the drain, aaaaand.  Well.  I’m taking shorter showers now!  But I started biking in to work, so now I take two showers a day.  I am switching to biodegradable soaps and shampoos, but that I was already doing anyway.  My friend made a rain barrel!  But I haven’t changed the way I water my plants or wash dishes.

I’d say my progress this month ranked about as low as February, when I failed utterly at composting.  But in February, I had tried, and failed.  I didn’t try very hard this month.  For instance, these are the things I should have tried:  I could collect pre-shower water to douse my plants.  I could brush my teeth from a cup of water, instead of letting the tap run (works while camping in Wisconsin.  I could do Navy showers- getting wet, soaping up with the water off, then rinsing.  While I can’t in good conscience shower less while I’m getting this much exercise morning and evening, that would at least minimize the extra-shower harm.  I could also find a low-flow showerhead.  May I mention that I hate that idea?  But I should try it.

Ok, I didn’t take my challenge seriously enough this month.  No excuses, really, but some pretty exciting other stuff did happen the past few weeks.  Which might explain why I’m recapping July in mid-August.

Anyhow, I’m fixing this lack of focus this month.  For the remainder of August, I’m regrouping.  I’m slipping on my vegetarian pledge, I haven’t harvested my successful compost, my garden is being ravished by displaced woodland creatures, I have a huge pile of sewing and mending to do, and I still haven’t checked to make sure the Eco-City Alexandria thing got through City Council a couple months ago.  So, for the remainder, I’ll work on getting back into those monthly grooves.

I’m already revisiting biking quite successfully, that is one area I can feel good about.  I actually look forward to my ride to and especially from work, which is not something I was expecting.  I rode with traffic on busy streets for a bit today, and I’m pretty sure I obeyed signals and followed road rules well.  Washington Area Bicyclist Association has a handy table of cycling ordinances for MD, VA, and DC.  Note that In Alexandria, cycling on sidewalks isn’t allowed, which means I need to rethink my morning detours.

I’m getting distracted from this endeavor, so a month of catching up with myself is needed.

Update: Save The Drips

I’m not paying as much attention to changing my water habits as I should.  Id plead vacation, work, moving, and life issues, but really I just didn’t plan this one out well.  I’d just been thinking for a few months that I take pretty long showers for a hippie wannabe, so that’s where my improvement ideas stopped.  By the way, showering at the gym in the mornings is guaranteed to save water.  There’s no such thing as a comfortable, warm, inviting locker room shower, and you will not be tempted to linger there daydreaming.  Nice to use my eco-guilt to get me up to work out, too.

Also, it has occurred to me that I’d save a lot of water if I didn’t shave in the shower, but that might be more of an excuse to put off shaving.

I looked up some lists of water conservation tips to help me get a bit further this month, though.  Some of the ones that hit home were catching pre-warm shower water in buckets until the water is hot enough for you, then using the saved water for plants.  Also, keep water in the fridge, so you don’t run it to get a cold glass for yourself.  One of the most helpful and comprehensive tip lists I found is here.

Any other tips you all have?

Mostly Rotten Monday

Today was a pretty lame day, especially after I found this article in my newsfeed:

More than 400 penguins, most of them young, have been found dead on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro state over the past two months, according to Eduardo Pimenta, superintendent for the state coastal protection and environment agency in the resort city of Cabo Frio.

While it is common here to find some penguins – both dead and alive – swept by strong ocean currents from the Strait of Magellan, Pimenta said there have been more this year than at any time in recent memory.

Poor little guys, as if sea lions and being really cold and having to eat regurgitated raw fish weren’t enough.  I wish that on bad days I could set a “good news” filter on the RSS feed.  Spend the morning reading about neat scientific experiments and maybe a few stories on underprivileged kids getting college scholarships, then switch back to “full reality” after lunch.

On the upside, I have discovered how to take shorter showers, and I’m down to under five minutes in the morning.  This is big for me, since I used to average 10-12 minutes in there.  I’m a lingerer- plus, I had long hair, and that required at least five minutes of proper attention by itself.  Getting it all wet, shampoo, conditioner, leaving in the conditioner so it will really condition, getting it all out afterwards…

Had long hair, though.  I got a fairly drastic cut, like long-enoughto-donate drastic.  I’d been growing it out for a couple years to see what happened (it got longer and I just wore it in a bun all the time).  So yes, I’ll be mailing someone my disembodied ponytail, which feels like a bad practical joke, but it does some good, so there we go.  And I realized that I need a small fraction of the shampoo and conditioner I used to, and that it takes me about a minute and a half to wash it all nicely.  Progress!  Plus, now I look adorable in hats.

Head in the Water

Beaver Lake

It was a very nice vacation, and yes, we windsurfed.  Well, not me, I had some sitting around to do, but I watched, and volunteered to join the canoe rescue/towing operation when it was necessary.

It was a great trip, and I got to go to the flea market, and knit for hours, and read a few books, and I’ll tell you about that later.  I’d like to update you on the water situation, first.

As you have gathered, I visited a lake in WI.  (See above.)  While at this lake, I stay in a tent, and I gather with my family in a one-room cabin, having a fireplace, a few electric lights, a food fridge and a drink fridge, and 3700 decks of cards.  We sunk a well ourselves in the 90s, but that’s as close to running water as we get.  Bathing, when it is done, is done in lake water, and generally directly in the lake.  We did build a shower, just a wooden frame wrapped in privacy tarps with a trash can o’ water and a little tube and pump inside.

Given that we’ve been vacationing as a family on this lake since 1940, we have a vested interest in keeping it nice.  We’ve raised squads of cousins to pull out encroaching lily pads, and just this summer an Uncle engineered a muck-sucker to clean up our swimming area.  The Auntie police have been making sure we cousins were using biodegradable soap and shampoo for generations.  Fortunately, given all this hippie stuff I’m into now, the shampoo I’m using at home is biodegradable already.

New rule:  If I wouldn’t put it in my lake, I won’t put it in my shower drain.

It all gets into the water supply again sometime, and while those chemicals might be great for the bounce and lustre and whatever of my hair, fish don’t have hair.  Neither do helpful aquatic plants.  Biodegradable materials are ones that are made to break down completely into relatively harmless parts when it gets exposed to organic matter for a while.  They’re usually made of more natural ingredients- if it’s harmless to begin with, it’s easier to break it up harmlessly- and lots of them don’t do so well at actually cleaning your head nicely. Finding the biodegradable ones that do clean you to your desired degree is the trick.  Herbal Essences used to be biodegradable, at least- haven’t used them in years, so I don’t know now- and camping stores usually carrying mysteriously opaque bottles of some safe all-purpose soaps.

Kiss my face products

I’m using Kiss My Face Green Tea and Lime Shampoo and Conditioner, and it smells nice and leaves my hair clean and nice-feeling after (add shampoo ad adjectives as you wish- silky?  full of body?  some other ridiculousness?  Whatever.  It looks nice, which is no mean feat after a couple days in a tent).  It’s got a little 100% biodegradable label on the back, which is reassuring, and about 90% of the ingredients were at some point plants.  It feels a bit different than other shampoos- it won’t get as sudsy as they will, but that doesn’t seem to hinder the magic.  Plus, suds are an indication of soapy chemicals- not what you want in a cherished family water body, or a local stream, or the ocean…

So check for the biodegradable label next time you find a new shampoo.  The switch to one with fewer chemicals might be startling at first- and indeed, many of these earth-friendlier hair things aren’t so much hair-friendlier- but if you don’t, the Aunties won’t let you in the lake.

Progress: Eat Less Meat

I did alright this month.  I started off with a relatively poor diet and lazy cooking habits, and I ended the month a little more excited about cooking, and slightly more likely to eat my vegetables.  I had a little red meat twice, just as I planned, and stuck to eating meat at one meal a day, generally.  Sometimes visiting or lack of planning lead me to eat it more frequently, but there were plenty of vegetarian-only days, too.  Overall, I ate much less meat than last month, both by frequency and serving size.  I cooked much more, and I’m now in a pattern of planning vegetable-laden meals and plotting things to cook.

So it was a very good start for me, and I’ll be trying to keep up with it from now on.

A few strategies that helped:  First, I stopped by a grocery on the way home from work every few days and bought a few fresh vegetables, with no real plan for how to eat them.  This forced me to think of ways to eat things before they went bad.  Second, when I cooked, I made a ridiculous amount of whatever I was preparing, so that I could have vegetarian leftovers for a few days.  Third, if I cooked with meat, I shorted the ratio of meat to veggies- two peppers to one sausage, for instance.

For this next month, I’m going to focus on water issues.  Using too much, and putting gross stuff in, specifically.  It’s likely I’ll even be timing my showers.

Just so you know, shower time is very important for me.  Regulating it is going to be very difficult for me, and I am going to resent it.  But maybe with a timer and practice, I can balance the time and the relaxation.

For the next week, showering won’t even be much of an issue.  In WI, we bathe in the lake.  There is a shower, though- a tarp on a wooden frame, with a pump in a trash can of water.  We sunk a well (yes, by hand) a while back, so we can shower in pump water now- and with a few tea kettles of boiling water, it’s comfy.  Scrubbing under the pines!  It’s the best way to shower.  But prep time for carrying and heating the water is prohibitively long, so mostly we lake it, or rely on deodorant and breezes to keep us from smelling too human.

Considering how closely our fun and cleanliness are linked to the quality of water in the lake then, we’re careful about what we put in it.  I need to consider the toiletries I take up, and how well they’ll break down into non-harmful materials in the lake.  Same with toothpaste and dish soap up there- we discard it a few meters from the lake, so it all gets back there pretty quickly.  My showers and soap use should be similar at home, so here’s the toiletry rule:  if I wouldn’t want to stick it in the family lake (how would this shampoo effect that sunfish?), I’m not sticking it in my water at home.  I’ll fill you in on what those are when I get back.


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virescent.blog (at ) gmail.com

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