Thursday, January 31, 2008

An announcement today from the EPA, that starting September 1, 2008, car dealers will be required to list the fuel economy AND the average yearly fuel cost for new vehicles on the dealership stickers. Also taking effect are more realistic miles per gallon calculations, which use real world travel to gauge more accurately fuel efficiency. These new practices are designed to help remove "sticker shock" so you know what you're getting yourself into when you're shopping for a new ride.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

12 Resolutions: January update / February Kickoff

End of my first month of resolutions… and I’m nervous to tally up the final number (probably have to wait a few days before the big reveal to allow all my bills to reconcile). I think I did a lot of little things that might add up: paying cash for gasoline saved bank fees every time (and the usual place is cheaper because they only accept cash or debit cards anyway). I implemented a new plan of power for my electronics, plugging them all into a power strip that I can shut off all day until I want to use it, eliminating “phantom loads”, where things like the TV and VCR continue to draw power even when they’re turned off. And paying cash for everything really makes you much more conscious of how much you spend. It’s really easy to throw down your credit card, but it’s a true test if you have to plan your purchases based on what you can afford with what’s in your wallet. I’m gearing up for month 2 of the 12 Resolutions, which is going to be an attempt at going vegetarian. It’s probably not an accident that I picked the shortest month of the year to give it a try, because it’s no secret I do enjoy a good In-n-Out Double Double…and ham sandwiches…and the occasional hot dog…and all things chicken. But the truth of the matter that meat for food production is environmentally intensive—it takes 12 times as much land to raise cattle than it does to grow wheat. It takes 3,500 gallons of water to grow a hamburger and livestock …uh “tailpipe” emissions are one of the leading causes of global warming. So I ask myself every once in a while, “What would it take for me to stop eating meat?” I don’t eat nearly as much as the average American, (who consumes 111 pounds of meat a year) but if I’m eating out, chances are I’m heading to the pollo column on the menu. So we’re gonna give it a try for 29 (damn you leap year!) days and see if we can manage it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dateline: Tuscon, Civano Kids Go Green!

This dispatch out of Tucson, my very own cousin’s residential community Civano has had their elementary school named the “Greenest Grade School in America” by All detergent! Now I’m not the biggest fan of liquid detergents, especially because of the fragrance issue. And their new product Small and Mighty will probably compound the problem (most people use way more than the recommended dose of detergent, which leads to over-perfuming of clothing, with the smaller bottle, extra-concentrated detergent will lead to even more fragrance). BUT…I do applaud their commitment to making an environmental difference (smaller bottles mean less weight for transporting, which means less oil used to transport). All’s contest to find the greenest grade school may just be a publicity stunt, but Civano won $50,000 for their school. What makes them the greenest? Civano collects and recycles rain water, composts anything they can, grows their own organic fruits and veggies, uses solar energy, the school is located within the community so kids can easily and safely walk to and from school, among other solutions. Congrats to cousin Aidan and all his classmates at Civano Elementary! (Photo borrowed from the Civano blog at, courtesy of Simmons B. Bunton from January 2007... couldn't resist this beautiful pic of Civano to illustrate how beautiful it is!)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

12 Resolutions Half-time Report: January

So we’re midway through the first month of my 12 Resolutions plan, and I thought to keep myself accountable, I would do a check in. My goal of cutting my spending by 25% seems to be going okay… I figured the best way to keep it a conscious reminder was to force myself to pay cash for everything. The mere act of having to schlep to the ATM every other day in order to withdraw money is enough to convince anyone stay home and read a library book. I do find myself putting off buying things that I know eventually will need to get (wedding presents, a full tank of gas) and that feels slightly like cheating. I’m very excited that I brought my flat tire back to where I purchased it 6 months ago since the fix ended up costing me nothing. I also have been digging through the freezer to eat those deeply buried leftovers. And I could have stayed home last weekend, but opted to go snowboarding with friends, an expense that wasn’t necessary, but just makes this challenge a little more difficult to achieve. I’ve got some tricky purchases to include on the back half of the month: a check up for my car, a parking ticket I shouldn’t put off, and that freezer’s getting pretty empty!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Move over SmartCar, Here comes Air Car!

I'm always indebted to the braniacs over at mental_floss for culling the best of the web into bite-sized pieces for me. One of this week's tasty tidbits is info on "The Air Car", a super small vehicle that runs on ...air, compressed air to be exact. US production of the MDI Air Car is a ways off, they'll begin manufacturing and distributing in Spain and more importantly India, where a mass-produced pollution-free vehicle could make drastic changes to the air quality. Click here for the overview at mental_floss.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Had to post this water conservation solution list courtesy of The Onion!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I think I've come to truly appreciate a smog-free day here in the San Fern Valley. After a torrential downpour this weekend (of the "Noah, get your boat" variety) the sun has emerged today and it is cool, crisp and clear. I see mountains I never knew existed. The light shades the hills like an Ansel Adams photo in full color. I stand outside and can actually see snow caps on the mountains only 10 miles away, and wonder if there will ever be a day when I will take a smog-free day for granted because they are no longer rare.