Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sustainable Sustainability-Energy Dieting

PeakOil Awareness, to me, so far seems a lot like going on a diet but instead of losing weight, we are all trying to lose some dependence on petroleum products. And, just like a diet, all methods work to some extent for a limited period of time. After that we tend to gain the weight back and then some, but in this case our regain is more energy consumption.

Some examples of Energy-Dieting would be:

Getting organic produce delivered from a farm. Seems like a great idea; fresh veggies, support the farmers, encourage more organic farming. Downside is that the veggies need to be transported, organic farming is very labor intensive, which diverts very good positive human energy away from actually solving the problems that produce the need for organic veggie delivery, and organic veggie delivery is at least 4 times more expensive than run of the mill produce so consumers must work more to be able to afford it.

Compare home grown organic veggies that use compost and residual heat from our homes to organic veggies grown in greenhouses, artificially heated and lit, and then delivered to customers up to 50 miles away, every week. Eventually, most consumers drop out of the delivery program after a few months or a couple of years and go back to more conventional methods. BUT, here is the problem-now consumers accustomed to getting highest quality must travel far and wide to get what they want so they have actually INCREASED their energy use.

Another example of Energy Dieting is installing solar panels to make electricity. Solar panels seem like a great idea; they have gotten cheaper, more efficient, and easier to retro-install on existing houses. The downside--Pre-built homes are all running on 120v. 120v is VERY tough on solar produced energy so to get the best use of your new panels you will need to install 12 volt lighting and electrical systems alongside your 120v systems. Another downside is is that the production of solar panels and the extra electrical system is not a clean manufacturing process. Just the amount of acid used to make and clean a 2 foot by 4 foot solar panel is enough to kill 2 full acres of land. Yes, the companies do recycle the byproducts but the very fact that they are needed should be a red flag to carbon-conscious consumers and the carbon foot print of a single solar panel can never be made up for by energy savings. All we have done by purchasing a solar panel is to move the carbon emissions to someone else's back yard.

Another example: Buying a new hybrid or bio-diesel auto. These have the same basic problems as solar panels: the initial carbon cost can never be made up for by energy savings. The mess of production is left where the car is produced and is adding to the global problem no matter how efficient the auto is to operate.

To really make a difference in our use of petroleum products we must forget everything we have been told about Energy Star appliances, Solar panels, Cars of the Future....every one of these items is designed to get the consumer to BUY MORE STUFF. The problem of Global warming and the end of petroleum reserves will never be solved by BUYING MORE. The only way to solve the problem is to use what we have more efficiently, make replacements intelligently, and working on problems with a more personal approach.

Examples of Low Energy Living that really work:

Grow as much of your own food as possible using available methods. I am growing about 600 linear feet of garden this year, the equivalent of a quarter acre of garden but I am growing it all in pots, and tubes using hydroponic methods. It may not work out, but it is worth a try. Total cost of the project so far is $120 for lights, growing medium, plant stands, etc. Even if you only have room for one 5 gallon bucket sized planter you could grow 3 or 4 salads a week(total cost for system is under $30.00.)

Buy less and get more. I admire the people who do the Stop-Buying-for-a-Year thing but I haven't been able to stick to that yet. I do have some other ideas that work for me:
Advertising makes products seem very appealing but it also accounts for up to 50% of the cost of the items. Designer clothing is a great example of this. If you look for stores and products that do minimal advertising you can save huge amounts on the items you need. I try to buy cleaners, spices, and household items as cheaply as possible, usually at Dollar Stores.

Stock up when items are on sale. For example, last week McPherson's Produce Market had ORGANIC broccolini on sale for 39 cents a pound(usually $2.99 a pound!) I now have enough of it in my freezer to last 6 months.

Keep a notebook of who has the best prices on what you need.

Make what you buy last longer by taking care of it.

Buy at thrift stores, especially on things you are not familiar with. Example- I bought a super high end juicer at a thrift store for $10.00. It worked great but juicing is not really my thing after all. I saved at least $190 by getting the cheap one first. (BTW, I have an Acme Challenger Juicerator for sale....$10.00 Works great!)

Sorry that this post has gone on so long but as you can see, I have a passion for this subject. I would love to hear from others concerning hydroponics, food preservation, saving energy, using less, and being generally happier.


1 comment:

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