Archive for the ‘Being Green’ Category

Really Big Houses

Posted: April 28, 2020 in Being Green, Rant

A few years ago, tiny houses were getting a lot of air time on cable TV. Nina and I were intrigued by them and watched many of these shows. Now there aren’t nearly as many of these shows on TV. If the decrease in shows is related to the popularity of the houses themselves, then perhaps the craze is over.

It seems the opposite of tiny houses, really big houses, have not lost any of their popularity. I follow a few architecture and green building Facebook pages and they regularly post photos new, big houses. Whether traditional or green construction, it pains me to see so many big houses promoted on these Facebook pages. I understand that some people need large houses — large families and multi-generation families living together are some very good reasons for having really big houses.

Unfortunately, as I read the stories about these houses, it appears that rarely do people really need a really big house. So why do I dislike these houses?

Regardless of how green you make a really big house, it takes more more materials to build and more resources to operate. Even with an all-electric house, you need more panels and more batteries to operate the house *heating, cooling, lighting, etc). You could power 2 or 3 “right-sized” houses with the number of solar panels that I saw on one so-called green house.

I will admit that when we first imagined our Green Dream Home, we thought we wanted an 1,800 – 2,000 square foot house. Ultimately, our house came out to 2,200 square feet. Not a mansion by any means but about 10% larger than we hoped.

The first Earth Day had a big impact on my life. Since that day, I have been concerned about our environment and have been a lifelong learner about how we can minimize our detrimental impact on our planet.

Fortunately, I married someone who shares my concern and priority for living in as green a manner as possible. This shared concern culminated (so far) in building our Green Dream Home.

It was nice to see that our architect, Jeff Jeannette, recognized our daily quest to live in an environmentally-friendly manner with this Facebook post.


It amazes me how the global climate change deniers instantly blog, tweet, and post to forums all over the internet when an abnormal cold weather event occurs. The fact is “more intense winter storms” are part of the predicted changes in weather patterns in the US as noted by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change:

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change was established in 1998 as a non-profit, non-partisan and independent organization.┬áThe Center’s mission is to provide credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change.

From the Climate Change 101 report, January 2011 Update, page 3, Table 1:

Notice on the 3rd line: “… more intense winter storms … Northeast.”

The effects of climate change on our weather are not common sense nor should the effects fit a linear, if-then model. The earth’s climate is a complex system and we have only been able to predict change with very sophisticated computer models.

So today we had a record snowfall in my birth state, New York. Just as the non-partisan scientists predicted, a more intense winter storm in the Northeast. It’s definitely news. Just not news about the inaccuracy of global climate change predictions.

Recycling in LA (Times)

Posted: January 30, 2011 in Being Green

I am very glad to see that the Los Angeles Times will be providing weekly information in their Saturday Home section on recycling and green living in Southern California. The lead article from yesterday’s paper provides information on how Los Angeles recycles. Also, my one of my favorite Times writers, Susan Carpenter, digs deep into her own trash. Now I have another reason to look forward to the Saturday paper.

(For various reasons I have had several unfinished posts sitting in my queue on Blogger. This is the third of three old posts that I am finally finishing.)

I have tried to get more involved with bicycle advocacy to promote cycling as a lifestyle; as a way to reduce our use of automobiles as primary transportation. To that end I have supported events related to the Long Beach Bicycle Master Plan. I also read the book, Pedaling Revolution, by Jeff Mapes.

Jeff presents a pragmatic view of how we can convert our American car culture into a more bicycle-centric culture that promotes better health, reduces dependence on foreign oil, and improves many aspects of our social structure.

Read the book (please).

It is Easy Being Green

Posted: February 4, 2009 in Being Green

My wife and I are fans of the television show, Living with Ed. Ed Begley, Jr. is kind of a nut on the show, but if you think about all of the things that he does to minimize his family’s impact on the environment, you’ll find that you can do many of them with relative ease. Some are easy, but require an investment. Others you can do inexpensively and with a relatively quick payback.

Here is a list of things that my wife and I do (the kids are another story) to try to be better citizens on this little blue ball:

  • Solar panels for generating electricity: During the day we make electricity for the neighborhood using the sun and we save a lot of money on our electric bill. There are a lot of cash rebates and tax credits associated with the purchase and installation of electric solar panels.
  • Computers and computer accessories plugged into electrical surge suppressors with on/off switches: A lot of your computer peripherals, like external hard drives with AC adapters and monitors, continue to draw power even when they are “off.” Flip the switch on the surge suppressor to off after you’ve turned off your computer. Be careful with ink jet printers and your high speed internet modem. Those items may need to be plugged into a continuous power source.
  • AC power adapters for cell phones, hand-held games, MP3 players, etc plugged into a simple power strip: Similar to the computer, these adapters draw power even when they aren’t hooked up to anything. Turn them off completely by switching off the power strip. Remember, if you see a glowing LED, the item is drawing power.
  • Recycle everything that the city will take and everything that you can bring to the local recycling center: Don’t throw anything into the trash that you can recycle. Our goal is to always have at least twice as much recycling (by weight) as we do trash each week. Just be careful not to put non-recyclables in with the recyclables. Certain items can ruin a batch of recycling if they get into the recycling mix.
  • Use compact fluorescent bulbs instead of standard incandescent bulbs: This is pretty much a no-brainer, when your standard light bulb burns out replace it with a compact fluorescent. If you remember the days when fluorescent bulbs made you look green, don’t worry, they give off light that looks very much like an incandescent now.
  • Don’t buy or use bottled water: I don’t know how many studies we have to conduct to see that our municipal water supplies provide water that is of similar or better quality than bottled water. Purchase a small, washable, and reusable water bottle so that you can bring water with you when needed.
  • Use recycled paper in your computer printer: For almost all uses these days (business or personal) recycled paper works just fine.
  • Better yet, don’t print: There are already too many jokes about people who print their emails — just don’t do it.
  • Turn off lights: Your parents were right — sort of — it’s a good idea for saving money, but it’s also a good idea that reduces our need to produce electricity from coal-burning electric plants.
  • Water your lawn less: Lawns are some of the biggest uses of water for most homeowners. You can actually get away with less watering and still have a green lawn.
  • Reuse plastic sandwich and freezer bags: We definitely use plastic bags in our household, but we try to reuse them as much as possible in a variety of ways.
  • Neither paper or plastic: Bring a cloth bag or a bag made from recycled materials with you when you go shopping. Or you can be like Ed and just carry your purchases out of the store in your hands.
  • Drive a hybrid or electric car: If you need a new car and can afford a hybrid, then buy one. I predict that all cars will eventually be hybrid or all electric within 20 years. It’s not just about saving gas. Think about all of the tailpipe emissions when your sitting stuck in traffic. A gas-electric hybrid turns of the gas engine when the car is stopped. When the engine isn’t running there are no hydrocarbons coming out of the exhaust pipe.
  • Walk or ride a bike for trips less than one mile: Especially where we live, Southern California, mass transit is not always convenient. However, you’d be surprised how often you drive less than a mile. Walking distances less than a mile doesn’t take a lot of extra time and it’s good for you.

I’ll be adding to this list over time as there are a lot more simple things each of us can do to make the planet last a little longer for the generations after us.

Tom Lehrer: Ahead of His Time

Posted: December 24, 2008 in Climate Change

When I was in college one of my roomates introduced me to the music and satire of Tom Lehrer. Thanks to YouTube, I have rediscovered Tom and his music. Here is one of Tom’s songs that ties to one of my current passions: Pollution.