Species: Tachycineta bicolor Order: Passeriformes
Chrissy Bowker of Texas (who, yes, also happens to be my mother) asks, “What’s this animal?”
The bird in the picture above is none other than the Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor. The Tree Swallow is an insectivorous, migratory passerine bird that breeds in North America and spends its winters in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Its most identifiable characteristics are its deep-blue, iridescent backs in stark contrast to their snow white front-sides, pointed wings, and split-notched tail. You’ll see them in fields and wetlands, chasing after insects and fellow swallows in a manner reminiscent of fighter jets in a dog fight.
Listen to a Tree Swallow call here:
Tree Swallow song:
I am new at all of this. Eco-Challenges, well, this whole site really, have been something that I have wanted to do for years. It is only now that I have finally found the time to give it my all. Though probably needless to say, there is a lot of self-consciousness, doubt, and self-criticism that comes along with trying to see your dreams become reality. The first Eco-Challenge was a trial by fire to say the least. It felt a lot like staring at a map without a key. All-in-all, it ended a success with 24 participants, 3.5 thousand pounds of CO2 saved, 162 pounds of waste diverted, and 6.3 thousand gallons of water saved. At the time the challenge ended, there were only 9 members in ‘The Wild Life’ community.
Now, the Energy Saver Eco-Challenge has come to an end and I am genuinely excited about the results. First things first, congratulations to Chloe Lazarus for being this month’s challenge and prize winner. This is actually the second month in a row that she has come out on top. Let’s give her a virtual round of applause, shall we? Since the first challenge ended, ‘The Wild Life’community has grown to 53 members, with 36 people participating in the Energy Saver challenge!
Seriously, good job everyone. Your efforts helped prevent 4,514 lbs of CO2 from being released. To put that into perspective, that is the same amount released by powering 3 homes for a month, keeping a fridge cold for 1,390 days, baking 3,965 frozen pizzas, or powering a hot tub for 400 hours.
This Eco-Challenge certain had its own hiccups along the way as I continued to find my footing. That’s why I am excited to say that this next challenge will be the best so far.
Here’s where it will be a different and better challenge compared to the past. The Wild Life will have far more content in relation to this month’s theme aimed to help you along, share ideas, and push you to reflect. I’m kicking of the month by hosting a neighborhood clean-up in, well, my neighborhood on April 1st and sharing the results and how to host your own event. Aprils Book Club read is Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan. The book is over a decade old but is just as relevant today as it was upon its release. I’ll also be starting up my compost bin again using the vermiculture method and sharing the DIY instructions and everything you need to know to be successful with your own. My wife and I will be taking on the Mason Jar Challenge where we compete with each other to see if we can fit a week’s worth of personal trash in a mason jar, and challenging you all to give it your best shot. There will be articles and videos showcasing developments in waste reduction, new technologies, and much more. I’m truly excited for the future of this project and to see what we can accomplish as a community. As always, be happy, be healthy, be the source of change, and live a wild life.
Using your bathrooms vent fan can do a few things for you: it can keep humidity levels down throughout your home, keep condensation down on your windows in the wintertime, and give your A/C a break. When your A/C has the added job of removing the heat and moisture added by your shower, it takes a lot more energy than if you were to just turn on your bathrooms vent fan for 20 minutes.
Doing this will save 42 lbs of CO2 per year! That’s preventing the same annual impact as powering a hot tub for 4 hours, charging 6813 batteries, or charging a cell phone 7630 times. (JouleBug)
The organization Defenders of Wildlife has a trending petition on Change.org asking Secretary Tom Vilsack of the USDA to help end unnecessary wolf killing in Idaho.
“Wildlife Services has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Idaho Governor Butch Otter’s Wolf Depredation Control Board to help carry out the state’s relentless wolf killing program. The goal: to artificially boost elk numbers for sport hunters and outfitters.
It is simply shocking for Secretary Vilsack to allow his Wildlife Services employees to contract themselves out as sharpshooters to kill wolves from the air, especially on Forest Service lands. It is equally shocking for the Forest Service, which is also under the control of Secretary Vilsack, to stand by and allow their Wildlife Service colleagues to kill wolves on our national forest lands.
Please take immediate action and tell the Secretary of Agriculture to order Wildlife Services to stop killing wolves on U.S. Forest Service lands!”
Few terms have the ability to shut people down faster than “going green”. For many, the idea sounds more like converting to a cult, rejecting all things anthropogenic. For others, going green is semi-synonymous with emptying your wallet. For some, being green is part of a larger vision of our best selves, but even the most dedicated can find themselves drowning in a sea of reusable bags and misinformed do-goodery.
The Energy Saver Eco-Challenge with JouleBug is only on its third day, and I have to say that reducing my energy usage is one of the most difficult things I have ever tried, and by “most difficult” I really mean literally the absolute easiest. Each action you take to save energy is like a mini investment for your future and the future of the environment. Think of it as trading personal energy for the savings of energy in other forms. The reality is that putting in a small effort will quickly add up to some big savings.
Below, you’ll find some of this months most effortless buzz-able actions (which happens to be 11 out of 21 actions, so…). These are all highly do-able adjustments that you can make in your day to day life which have little to no impact on you but add up to major bonuses for your wallet and the planet.
Easy, right? If you start doing each of these things, you will save over 8500 lbs of CO2 from entering the atmosphere and contributing to a warming climate. According to US Census data, there are more than 115 million households. If each household were to make these minuscule adjustments, we could prevent the annual release of about 443 386 542 metrictons of CO2. To put that into context, the US releases somewhere around 1925 million metrictons of CO2 each year. Change is possible.
More information on each of these actions and their impacts can be found in the JouleBug app under ‘Energy’.
Despite what you may think, not all of your laundry has to be washed on hot, or even warm for that matter. You can get special detergents which work best with cold water,but the truth is that most detergents nowadays will do just fine. Using the cold wash makes a huge difference for your wallet and the environment and it gets your clothes just as clean. According to Energy Star, 90% of your washing machines energy usage is for heating water.
Using what we know about the average washer, the hot-cold water ratio of whichever cycle you select, and assuming you switch 70% of your laundry loads to cold wash, your annual savings impact is equivalent to the amount of energy required to bake 303 frozen pizzas, charge a laptop 2256 times, watch 1766 hours of TV, or power a hot tub for 31 hours.
I understand putting your clothes on a drying rack or a clothesline isn’t possible for everyone or every season. For those of you who can, however, it’s worth the savings.
According to Joule Bug data, the average family runs 392 loads of laundry per year. So, assuming you have 90 nice enough days to dry your clothes outside, you’re saving 487 lbs of CO2. That’s the same yearly impact as powering a hot tub for 43 hours, baking 428 frozen pizzas, or watching 2496 hours of TV! (JouleBug)
The Energy Saver Eco-Challenge with JouleBug is just 3 days 1 hour 54 minutes and 23 seconds away as I write this (but who’s counting?). Today, I’d like to highlight one of the buzz-able actions which gets you 8 base-points, or points before bonuses awarded for sharing on social media and the like, and that is “Dress the Part”.
It’s March, otherwise known as the “The Walking Dead Month” or “Game of Thrones Month” because it toy’s with your emotions. Okay, so maybe no one calls March by either of those names, myself included, but they could. One day it’s warm out with a cool breeze, the next it’s frigid, bone-snapping, cold. On a side-note: Have you ever noticed how every single state thinks it’s the only one that has weeks containing all 4 seasons? I always see pictures captioned “Only in ___” and it’s always a different state. I hate to burst your bubble but weather is crazy sometimes, especially between season changes, but I digress.
When your home is cold, it sucks. After all, you want to be cozy at home. Home is a safe-place where you go to relax and feel…at home. If you’re like me, it doesn’t matter the season. It can be 90-degrees and sunny and you’ll still be wearing a hoodie. Now, the easiest fix for getting warm would be to crank up the heat, right? Wrong. Think about it. If what you really want is to heat yourself, why would you start by trying to warm the biggest thing in your house, that thing being your actual house? When I put it like that, it’s hard to disagree that that sounds like something only a crazy person would think is logical. What’s the alternative? If you haven’t figured it out yet, you could use some serious practice in deduction, or maybe you’re just not fond of reading titles. I doubt that though because something tells me you wouldn’t have made it this far into my ramblings if that were the case. Again, I digress. So,
Put on an extra layer or two. Slip on a sweater, put on a pot of coffee, have a warm tea, snuggle up to your bae, or break out the blanket. Any of those are a better alternative to cranking the heat for your energy bill and for the environment. Dress the part and save 112 lb of CO2 per year. That’s the same yearly impact as charging a laptop 731 times, planting 1 tree seedling, baking 98 frozen pizzas, or watching 573 hours of TV.
Like I said, I am always cold. I basically always have on long-sleeves, even when it’s smoldering out. If you’re at home, I assume the walk to your closet can’t be much further than the walk to your thermostat. Something I do is always keep a hoodie out and a throw blanket near the couch. I’m pretty much always drinking coffee which is basically liquid comfort which also helps keep me warm. It’s honestly not a difficult habit to build. Added bonus: you get to be hella cozy all of the time!