Thursday, March 26, 2009

No More Plastic Bottles...evuh!

So I've had it. I'm usually pretty good about not buying bottled water, but when I travel it seems to be all one can do. After many trips where my system adversely reacted to the change in minerals in local water, I thought sticking to the bottled stuff was the way to go. But after going through airport security at Burbank Airport, I needed to quench my thirst. None of the news stands carry water any longer, so I was stuck with going to a cafe for my water selection. I picked a small (16.9 oz) bottle of Crystal Geyser and was told "That'll be $2.72."

*GASP* I was floored. Too floored to even storm out shouting, "That's highway robbery," dramatically, with a flourish of my cape. So I handed over my money and drank that bottle of water (at 16 cents an ounce), in 2 minutes flat (it was a 1.5 mile walk from home to the airport) and resolved never again. I headed to the restroom and promptly filled my aluminum bottle and the empty Crystal Geyser bottle with tap water. And you know what? It tasted just fine. I didn't grow gills on the plane.

Spending the week on location in New York, I put my new tap water only theory to the test, where, it didn't matter so much because New York City has one of the most highly rated municipal water supplies in the country. Of course, I was lucky enough to have someone running to the spigot for me every hour to refill my bottle, so first chance I got, I picked up a new SIGG 1 liter bottle... which is almost as light as a plastic bottle, is washable, reusable and a fashion statement and conversation starter. The $25 price tag is small potatoes, especially when I can recoup that cost in less than 10 bottles of airport water.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Reading List: "Greasy Rider: Two dudes, one fry-oil-powered car, and a cross country search for a greener future." (Greg Melville, 2008)

When Greg Melville needed a new car, he and his wife decided to try a greener route: why not buy an old diesel powered automobile and convert it to use 100% vegetable oil as fuel. Once they secured a 1985 Mercedes wagon and retrofitted it with a Grease Car system, Greg grabbed a friend (Iggy) and set out on a cross country road trip (Vermont to California with a few detours) to be (what he thinks) the first person ever to cross the nation in a vehicle solely powered by used vegetable oil. (Seems weird that it’s taken someone this long to come up with this challenge, and even the author prefaces every mention of it with “we think”). Converted Grease Cars are an intriguing idea, as they do keep (usually) older vehicles out of the waste stream and prevent a least one new car from being purchased. But more important is to realize is that they use 100% used cooking oil, (a waste product that most fast food restaurants actually pay to have taken away) to power a car and that is pretty darn cool.
The whole book feels a little thin—it feels that he had to fill it up with a lot of side trips that had nothing to do with the challenge (who cares if a college friend they visit turns out to be gay?) The “errands” that Iggy challenges Greg with are interesting enough (a trip to Google headquarters would make any eco-nerd salivate) but we’re still left wondering what happened to the bio-wagon after the cross country trip. It’s a nice story that does prove it can be done, you just have to WANT to do it; to quote Iggy “…if two goobers like us can actually get in a car and drive across the country without fossil fuels or putting a lot of carbon into the air, the answers for sustainability are easier than people think.”

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Weeding the Mountain

So this month’s day of service I spent out with the friends of Tree People literally weeding the forest. I was skeptical at first but figured there has to be a logical reason why we would be pulling up perfectly healthy green plants—in an area so prone to wildfires, why would we want to get rid of something that is not brown and crispy?? The answer lies in the target of our attack: mustard greens and yellow thistles are both invasive plants to our region that are so toxic to the soil that their presence can kill native flora and even some animals. In an area in danger of drought conditions, these nasty weeds also “steal” water from the ground, so they had to go. Tree People insists on leaving the nutrients from the uprooted weeds in situ, so that the nitrogen from their leaves can do some good for native plants. (I’m trying to remain Zen about the fact that I have contracted a poison ivy-like rash all over my arms and legs during the weed pulling extravaganza…)