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!
As one of America’s most influential environmentalist, Barry Commoner devoted his life and career to ecology, awareness, education, and enacting positive change. He was among the first to begin advocating for recycling and organic farming, as well as raising awareness about the threats of the greenhouse effect and the dangers of radioactive fallout. As the founder of the Citizen’s Party, which he also ran for president under in 1980, Commoner believed in the collective power of individuals to create change and peace through accepting responsibility for their actions and making the active decision to be better.
After World War II, early on in Commoner’s career, the US government and Soviet Union were in the beginnings of a Cold War and nuclear arms race. The US government was tirelessly conducting nuclear bomb test in the oceans and isolated portions of the American desert. Commoner, as well as his fellow professors, became increasingly concerned with the potential public health hazards associated with the dispersal of atomic residue which had been projected into the stratosphere. In 1950, he and his colleagues began investigating the lasting effects of strontium-90, one of the atomic residues. As Commoner describes, strontium is very much like calcium and, in fact, follows calcium throughout the body to the bones and teeth. So came the “I Gave My Tooth to Science” campaign, which began with 10’s of thousands of St. Louis’ school children sending in their teeth to be tested for harmful levels of strontium, but soon escalated to teeth being sent in from around the world. It wasn’t long before their studies showed strontium-90 was present in levels enough to cause cancer and a worldwide ban of atmospheric nuclear testing was put in place. This was a major environmental victory. Commoner speaks of this time in American history as a moment when people began to see that the effects on the environment as a result of their choices were directly on them. 1970 saw the first Earth day, the founding of the EPA, the Clean Air Act, and the removal of lead from gasoline which was a major environmental toxin.
It may seem that we have lost a lot of that momentum, but as Commoner points out, a lot of those same attitudes and concerns are mirrored by the sudden popularity of organic foods which, by the way, Commoner and his colleagues were the first to rigorously study. Still, Commoner warned of the “Red threat” which he described as “ the thoughtless way in which we decide what we are going to produce and how we are going to produce…and what impact that has on not simply getting the product but on our lives, our health, the welfare of poor people, the environment as a whole.” That “Red Threat” can be exhibited quite obviously by industrial agriculture, and slowly creeping into what is supposed to stand as the environmentally minded alternative of organic. To counter that threat, Commoner created the 4 Laws of Ecology:
1) Everything is connected to everything else
2) Everything must go somewhere
3) Nature knows best
4) There is no such thing as a free lunch.
These “laws” are rules to live by and it takes a wise person to simplify such complex issues into four bullet points while still doing them the justice they deserve.
I re-write this (I initially wrote this back in 2015) at a time when scientific fact is being weighted less than political ideology. There is a real and present danger to the progress we have collectively made in reducing our impact and restoring the environment. I re-write this as a reminder to myself an others that we, together with a unified goal, can create change on an unimaginable scale. In spite of our presidents goals to bring back coal, renewable energies are taking the lead. In spite of gag orders on the EPA and censorship of scientific information, scientists, science enthusiasts, and concerned citizens are rallying together in support of science,publicly funded research,and public communication of scientific discovery the March for Science. Now is not a time to be discouraged. Now is a time to look to the past for guidance, unite in the present, and fight like hell for a better future for the environment and the coming generations.
Sometimes understanding something is as simple as putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, or in this case, nest.
I spent a summer working as a Park Ranger for Gull Lake Recreation Area in Brainerd, Minnesota for the US Army Corps of Engineers. While there, I did weekly interpretive programs as any park ranger does, but I wanted to take my programs to the next level by creating something more immersive. So, I decided to build a human-size bird nest which could double as a wildlife-viewing platform/overlook for the channel between Gull Lake and the Gull River. By the time I was finished, I had developed an entirely new level of respect for the vast variety and intricacies of nests in the animal kingdom.
I won’t go too much into detail because the pictures show the process better than I can explain anyway. I started with four 4-foot tall 4×4’s (that’s a lot of 4’s) and two 2-foot tall 4×4’s, attaching 2- foot long boards about 4 inches up.
After that, I brought the frame out to its new home, still unattached. I set it up in a semicircle shape and used spare boards to brace the frame together by drilling them into the tops of the post. That held it in place so that I could start at the bottom and work my way up. All of the wood used was either fallen vine, limbs of trees which were taken out by the summers storms, or pieces I found on the forest floor. Nothing was taken or cut down in order to make the nest.
The method was pretty simple. I wove the largest pieces through the post along the outside. I drilled some of those into the post to add some extra sturdiness to the frame. That’s really it! It was a lot of looking for the best spots to wedge in sticks, twigs, branches, and whatever other filling I could find.
After I had the outside pretty filled out, I attached a board on the front base and filled in the empty space with class 5 and then tamped it down by hand. For the finishing touch, I spray painted the frame and added wood-burned displays.
For those of you wondering, my initial plan was to place the post into the ground to brace it that way. As it turned out, digging in that particular area was prohibited as part of some agreements due to the fact that the area used to be the site of an Ojibwa settlement, meaning I had to figure out an alternative way of building it so that it is actually above ground.
As far as stability goes, to the best of my knowledge, the nest is still there. We had some major storms come through that summer and none of them so much has moved a stick out of place. I’m no bird, but all-in-all, it turned out great.
This months Eco-Challenge (3/19-3/25) with JouleBug is all about saving energy. This months buzz-able actions are shown in the slideshow above. Since this is only the second challenge, here is a brief re-cap of how this works and how to join:
Eco-Challenges are hosted by Joule Bug, a free smartphone app which makes sustainable living social, simple, and fun. You can download it in the Apple App Store and Google Play. Within the app, you can join communities.
In this case, The Wild Life Community where you can “buzz” your accomplishments and green deeds. It can even track the pounds of CO2 saved, waste diverted, and gallons of water saved by the community as a whole. To join the challenge, just download the app, join the community, and enter the challenge. This month, the 1st place winner will be receiving an official stainless steel ‘The Wild Life’ travel mug!
Over the next couple of weeks, check back for posts highlighting the ins-and-outs of some of this months buzz-able actions. We’ll be covering the “how-to”, the “why?” and everything in between. Along the way, I will be sharing my personal progress with implementing these green habits, as well as tips & tricks I learn along the way through videos, articles, and general resource sharing.
You’ve got to hand it to them. Raccoons are some of the most resourceful and opportunistic creatures out there. They, like us, are omnivores. Meaning they’ll eat basically whatever they can get their tiny little hands on. Their size and their incredible dexterous hands make breaking-and-entering your home/garage/shed/chimney/doggy door a simple task.
To many, they are a nuisance (“a plague on all your houses!”). They get into trash and have a habit of getting into your pets food if you place it outside. Hey, you left food outside and a raccoon’s gotta eat, am I right? Here’s the thing. As humans have built up suburbs and urbanized, we have begun to encroach on the habitat of other animals. While most species don’t do too well with that change of scenery, opportunistic raccoons have found an endless source of food and shelter.
If you feed your dog or cat outside, just be sure to bring in any excess food. All living things are programmed to look for the most calories for the least amount of effort. Your pets food on the back porch is like placing a Big Mac and a dozen donuts under a neon sign that reads “Come and get me!”. Are they getting into your trash? Invest in trash cans with locking lids. If possible, keep the bins in your garage (with the garage door closed, of course) until trash day to minimize their accessibility. What if you’re a fan of raccoons and don’t mind having them around? The same rules follow because your neighbors might not agree. Avoid feeding, touching, petting, or overall interacting with raccoons. Watching them can be really entertaining, but don’t let their peculiarity and cuteness distract you from the fact that giving them to much attention isn’t good for either of you. After all, you don’t want them to become dependent on you, or people in general.