Sunday, June 24, 2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Here's what's been goin' on around here since I last wrote:

We've had RAIN, RAIN, and MORE rain. I only bought two rain buckets (as you might recall), and they haven't been nearly enough. Two days ago I mentioned how we should get two more rain buckets. Em agreed, but said, "Ya know once this rain stops, it STOPS!". We haven't gotten them yet and it's rained several times since then. The rain, though, has helped cool the temperatures. Normally June is much too hot to remain comfortable without AC, but we've had a lot of luck keeping the windows open.

I've gotten NOWHERE near where I wanted to be with lessening our electricity use (thus expense). I had high hopes of using 400 kwh/month after No. 1 moved out. HA! It just never happened no matter what I did. We used 617 kwh for the period 5/10-6/11. That's $98.55 to TXU because our summer rate for ONE kwh is a little bit more than 15.65 cents and then there's sales tax. I'd really hoped for better than this with all the work I've done, so to say I'm disappointed would be an understatement.

Speaking of disappointments, I had my annual dental checkup on Monday of this week. BLEH! Here AGAIN, I thought I was doing everything right! 5 (FIVE) new cavities! Richard said, "I don't know what to say! What's your diet like?" That question leads me to yet ANOTHER area in which I thought I was doing everything right! We're eating fish and lots of fruits and the infamous THEY tells us to do!

So, don't do anything *I* do or listen to anything *I* say, because

In the good news department, we finally got the storm/screen door installed yesterday. Sweetest young man installed it. Reminded me a lot of Las Vegas Davey. It took him a full hour to install that thing. Em tossed me the "Installation Manual" after the boy left and I got a good laugh from it. There is NO WAY that Em and I could have installed that door using those instructions. When you're missin' the "handy" gene, you're REALLY missing it, it seems.

Speaking of missing the handy gene, we're gonna call someone today for an estimate on cleaning/resealing our refrigerator. Without the AC on, that thing just runs and runs and runs. It doesn't pass the dollar bill test, either. You've heard about that test, right? You close the door on a dollar bill and you shouldn't be able to easily pull the bill out of the door. There's ALSO a bit of black speckle (mold, I suspect) on the seal between the frig and freezer on top. That's another indicator that the seals aren't working as they should. SO, we thought about buying a new refrigerator that was Energy Star and everything, but this little 18.5 cu ft frig of ours is JUST RIGHT for the two of us and has an icemaker that Em LOVES. It's 9 years old, which is close to average lifespan, but we're thinking we could get another 10 years out of it if we treated it better and had a few things (cleaned/resealed) fixed. Em'll call an appliance repair person today to see how much it might cost for the clean/retrofit job. We would never get our money back buying a new Energy Star and this little thing could end up who knows where?

I'm still doing a lot of environmental experiments with unexpected results. For instance, remember THIS GUY? Mr. Electricity wrote that electric ovens use 5000 watts while microwave ovens use 1500 watts... so I've been using the microwave oven to bake things. Seriously...and they're coming out FINE! I haven't concentrated on BREAD items YET, but I've done wonderful frittatas, meatloaf, sloppy joes, roasted vegetables, fish, rice, omelets, sausages, soups, yadda yadda. I'm gonna try bread stuffs this week, and I'm gonna try pork chops in the bag. Em loves chops baked in the McCormick seasoning "in the bag", so I'm gonna brown the chops on the stovetop and then bake them "in the bag" in the microwave. That little old microwave of Lucky's is getting abused, I think. We don't have but two settings on that thing, but for baking, I've set the dial to between Cook and Defrost wherever it'll not slip.

It might be thought (on occasion) that the stovetop would work more efficiently for things like omelets, but there's NO comparison when it comes to cleanup. A little oil in a glass pan microwaved comes out almost totally clean while a little oil in a metal pan on the stovetop comes out needing lots of water to wash. Six of these...

There are some things I would have liked to see change that won't change and that's okay. I started reading Envirowoman and immediately thought about making lemonade and storing it in glass containers that we could wash and the world would smile on me for doing such a thing. But, Em likes his plastic litre bottles of Minute Maid Lemonade, they're cheap enough at $1.00 (wouldn't save any money buying lemons or frozen concentrate), and the bottles are recycled each week. That's something that few people consider when discussing changes in living. SOME of us live in cities that already recycle our plastic, paper, glass, metals. I'll put it on my calendar to visit our dump before summer's end, but we're in a position to have some options that don't necessarily increase our footprints I think. I think the same thing holds true on paper towel usage versus water usage. We live in the US Southwest and routinely have water shortages. It makes no sense for me to use cloth instead of paper when the little bit of paper we use can be composted in the garden while the water used to clean the cloth routinely would cost the environment here a whole lot more. I'm more conscious of this when I need to wipe grease.

So, we need to think everything through and decide what we want to do for OUR lives and OUR situations. It's another of those "everyone's different" things of which life seems to abound. I'm enjoying the experimentation phase, but looking forward to the "This is where we drew the line in the sand on these concerns after trying various things and eliminating what didn't work for us" phase. Check out Greenpa for someone who's been there, done that.

This brings me to my last topic for today: Eating locally. We could be eating a whole lot more locally this year had Em not told me he was going to redo the whole backyard this summer thus putting off my gardening because it would interfere with HIS project (which he never did!). P%#&*$&#! So, I'm late to the party, had to BUY a few tomato plants, feel like the whole first half of the year has been a waste except for onions, but look forward to a fall garden and even consuming much more of the backyard than Em ever thought he'd concede. I'm a little jaded on the subject, but a few bloggers have Eating Locally things going on and I'm gonna support them. First one is starting the challenge on June 24 and looking for folks to send in recipes for meals made for dinner with only locally produced foods. That would be Liz and she's closed the door on folks who haven't yet signed. Damnit! Okay...I'll open the door here for recipes made from locally produced foods and let Liz know that I'm taking up the slack if I can remember to do that. Second is Crunchy again. Difference between the two ( I THINK) is that Liz has the challenge beginning on June 24 and going for 10? weeks while Crunchy has the challenge beginning on July 1 and going for the month of July. So, I'm willing to accept the recipes (just because I want to steal them) for folks who didn't make it in time to sign up for the Liz challenge and I'm also supporting Crunchy's July challenge. The reality of this is another one of those "six of these", "half dozen of those" things, though. Do I need certification that Kroger signed a contract with a local grower to provide excess zucchini to sell at the store within walking distance? Do I really need to drive the 20 minutes to our town's Farmer's Market where three farmers sell limited vegetables at 10 times the price of Kroger? I do it because I want to support our local farmers, but I also feel like I'm being targeted as stupid enough to take advantage. There's that dilemna again. Damnit.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hunger Awareness Day - was - um - yesterday, June 5, 2007.

I mentioned previously how I use Coupon Mom as a cheapskating tool and in return for that donate some things to charity that I've bought with my savings.

Now over 35 million people in the United States, including 12 million children are identified by the United States Department of Agriculture as being uncertain as to where they will find their next meal.

Tyson Foods, Inc plans to donate more than 600,000 pounds of protein over the next two weeks to 17 California food bank members of America's Second Harvest - the Nation's Food Bank Network.

You can help by purchasing an extra item or two on your next trip to the grocery store.

Needed Food Bank Items:

Peanut Butter Plastic or Cans
Fruit Canned
Fruits Dried (raisins, apricots, prunes)
Chili Canned
Rice Box or Bag
Pasta Products Spaghetti, Macaroni Noodles Dry
Pasta Products Canned
Pasta Sauces Canned or Dry
Meat Products Canned, Dried or in Pouches
Fish Products Canned, Dried or in Pouches
Soups Canned
Soups Dry (Ramen type and mixes)
Beans Canned
Beans Dry
Stews Canned
Stews Dry
Juices Canned
Milk Powdered
Milk Canned
Mixes Dry (Pancake, Bread, Cake, Cookie, Biscuit, Bisquick Mix, Muffin Cornbread)
Sugar Boxed
Vegetables Canned
Boxed Dinners (Macaroni and Cheese, Hamburger Helper Tuna Helper Rice-a-Roni etc.)
Cereals Cold Packaged
Cereals Hot Packaged
Cereal and Granola Bars
Soap Hand and Body
Soap Shampoos
Soap Laundry
Soap Dish
Toilet Paper
Paper Towels
Facial tissue
Feminine Hygiene Products
Diapers Disposable
Deodorant Personal
Household cleaning supplies
Baby Food
Baby Formula
Baby Products (diapers, baby wipes, powder, and lotion)
Cheese Spread
Nuts Canned or Packaged
Sauces/Salad Dressing
Puddings and custards
Tomato products (Paste, Sauce, Crushed etc.) Canned
Crackers and Cookies
Condiments: ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressing
Razors Disposable
Coffee Instant and Ground

We use the Arlington Mission because it's close to home, but if you don't know where to take staples, check out Second Harvest. You can just enter your zipcode to find the nearest chapter.

No. 1 moved the last of her stuff over to Dave B's house yesterday. She's coming back today to finish cleaning the guest room & bathroom & have a game or 20 of Boggle. She's getting the bulk of charitable contributions this month as she embarks on the two-year starving college student path. I'll be finishing up her care packages this morning.

Hat tip to: Grocery Guide for the information.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

"Americans Are NOT Stupid" video and more info on Low Impact/what it means to me.

Low Impact Info:

Here are the 7 categories: (lifted and abridged from Casaubon's Book):

1. Gasoline. Average American usage is 500 gallons PER PERSON, PER YEAR. We're using 14 gallons/week now with Em working (not counting vacations or trips to Shreveport) That's 728 gallons/year right there. So, we'd be right about avg for the 2 of us adding in vacations if Em worked all year. Of course, he doesn't work all year, so we might be less or might be more with vacations. Gasoline is something we're not going to address until the Mustang dies. On vacations, we rent a car with better mileage, but outside of driving less (which we already do), we'll just have to live with this gasoline hog until its death.

2. Electricity. Average US usage is 11,000 kwh PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR, or about 900 kwh PER HOUSEHOLD PER MONTH. I think we could get this down to 400/mo, so that's a 56% reduction. Much below that just isn't possible, I don't think. I'll keep looking at it weekly and correlating what we did that caused the increases/decreases in kwh, but with the heat of the summer coming I don't see how we can go below 400/mo.

3. Heating and Cooking Energy - US Average Natural Gas usage is 1000 therms PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR. I'm still trying to get a handle on what we use. Our heat is natural gas and we have a gas stovetop and hot water heater. I was struggling for the unit term, but if it's therms, we only used 1 last week and 2 the week before. I'll look at the bill when it comes to see what I'm missing; we can't be that far below average. Must be that we use tons in the winter and I don't know because I've never paid attention to the utility bills.

4. Garbage - the average American generates about 4.5 lbs of garbage PER PERSON, PER DAY. We recycle two bins of paper/glass/metal/plastic/cardboard per week and have one pretty small bag of stuff that's totally awful for any dump. Maybe this is an area in which I can encourage my local retailers to make a change. We're omnivores and our local groceries tend to sell meat products wrapped in plastic around a styrofoam base. I need to be more outgoing regarding how offensive this is compared to just seeing the meat in the meat counter and having it wrapped in freezer paper.

5. Water. The Average American uses 100 Gallons of water PER PERSON, PER DAY. Water is an area where we've conserved for a long time, but maybe not to the extent I'm experimenting with now. The reason was that it's expensive here in North Texas.

6. Consumer Goods. A Professor at Syracuse University calculates that as an average, every consumer dollar we spend puts .5 lbs of carbon into the atmosphere. The average American spends 10K PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR on consumer goods, not including things like mortgage, health care, debt service, car payments, etc... Used goods are deemed to have an energy cost of 10% of their actual purchase price. Goods that were donated are deemed to be unlimited, with no carbon cost.

What I haven't seen mentioned in this category is charitable contributions. I use Coupon Mom as a cheapskating tool, but I also agree with her that since I'm able to save money on MY stuff, how about using a little bit of that money saved to help the poor and homeless I buy stuff to send over to the Arlington Mission. I was reminded of this today because we bought a bunch of canned chile and pork'n'beans yesterday using coupons combined with a sale at Kroger. I bought them for the mission. Em likes chile, so thought we should keep that and thought that as much as we all like pork'n'beans we should keep that, too. So, we compromised; we're keeping half and giving away half. Point is, though, charitable institutions who feed hungry families versus institutions who feed hungry walk-ins need staples and staples tend to involve packaging and purchases.

7. Food. There are a number of things involved with food, so a number of ways you could cut your food impact. Only time you get 0 impact is when you grow your own or buy something grown organically in your area. The further away the food originates increases the impact. At least that's the theory. I'm, personally, not convinced that (for instance) a cantaloupe flown to Texas from Costa Rica has a greater impact than one that's been trucked to Texas from California and there are a whole lot of other issues involved in making decisions on what products to buy from what country or even buying anything from other countries. Getting into all that, though, is mixing environmentalism with politics.

Food is also the one area where impact can't be gauged by how much money was spent. One would think that food you've grown, for instance, would be cheaper, but unless you have access to free seeds, free manure, etc. you might find yourself spending considerably more for the one cucumber you grew than you would have spent getting a cucumber from sack'n'save that was grown locally. Might be that there's an added entertainment value or value for contribution to happiness, which reminds me to remind you to watch that video that Colin put up today on NoImpactMan.

Since we're old (60+), we're members of the AARP, which some of you might recognize as one of the strongest lobbies on Congress because there are so many of us these days. This month's newsletter discusses ecotourism and (as I maybe referenced slightly above) I think there's a whole lot more involved with saving the planet than confining ourselves to a particular radius surrounding our homes.