Monday, October 15, 2007

Freezer Savings-Look Before You Leap!

Freezers use energy a different rates depending on the age of the machine, type and total size. There is also a wide variance between manufacturers so shop for the best energy deal that you can find. The average freezer is in operation for over 25 years...more than long enough to make up the initial cost in energy savings.

Energy usage for some Kenmore Freezers:
5.0 cu. ft. Upright Freezer - 321 Kilowatt Hrs per Year
13.7 cu. ft. upright - 621 Kilowatt Hrs per Year
16.7 cu. ft. Upright Freezer - 682 Kilowatt Hrs per Year
20.3 cu. ft. Upright Freezer - 763 Kilowatt Hrs per Year

If you haven't bought a freezer yet then consider a chest freezer. The energy savings can be quite a bit.

5.0 cu. ft. Manual Defrost Chest Freezer - 242 Kilowatt Hrs per Year
13 cu. ft. Chest Freezer - 326 Kilowatt Hrs per Year
Elite 19.7 cu. ft. Chest Freezer - 435 Kilowatt Hrs per Year
19.7 cu. ft. Commercial Chest Freezer - 488 Kilowatt Hrs per Year

To save even more on freezers usage:
Buy a new freezer if yours is more than 10 years old.
Keep the door shut
Keep the freezer in a cool garage rather than in a heated space
Keep the freezer full
Keep an ongoing list of contents on the door so you do not have to rummage around to find stuff.
Keep the compressor coils clear from the wall and clean often.
Turn off the auto-defrost cycle and only turn it back on when it really needs to be defrosted.

A letter to

I found this company that claims to produce a carbon free CFL and I had so many questions that I had to write to the company for clarification. I will post any answer that I may receive.

The letter:
I found your website through and I am still a little skeptical about CFLs. My concerns are about the total costs of CFLs compared to incandescent. I have seen a lot of comparisons between energy and replacement costs and those numbers do favor the CFLs. What about the other costs associated with CFLs?

Packaging: the CFLs available at Lowe's and Walmart in my area are packaged in a hard plastic clam-shell as opposed to a card board sleeve for the incandescents. Since Walmart's stated goal is the sale of 6,000,000 units then packaging is an important consideration. Is the impact of packaging included in your CFL math?

Toxicity: Regular light bulbs are fairly nontoxic and break down into glass, aluminum, a bit of brass, and a little argon gas. All fairly simple and non-toxic. CFL bulbs on the other hand contain argon and mercury vapor and phosphors. These toxic chemicals are a very small percentage, I agree, but when I think about having 6 or 12 in my house it does start to add up. In fact, it really adds up when I consider that 134,475,214 CFLs have been purchased in the last 14 months. Each bulb contains 5-6 mg of mercury. That is : ((134 475 214 / .005) / 28) / 16 = 60,033,577.7 Pounds of Mercury and only about 15% are actually being recycled. That adds up to 51,028,541 Pounds of mercury is being added to American landfills every year.

Worker Safety: My regular light bulbs are made by Americans, working good wage jobs in St Louis Missouri (GE is planning to close this factory in 2008) Philips Lighting has its corporate office in Somerset, New Jersey with manufacturing plants in Danville, KY; Bath, NY; Salina, KS; Fairmont, WV; Paris, TX. CFL's are made by hand in China by workers who make a dollar or two per day while being exposed to Mercury Vapor on a daily basis. Are they getting enough protection? Is enough being done to protect the families and living areas of these workers?

Transportation: Regular bulbs travel up to 500 miles by truck and train(with American drivers) to reach consumers across America. CFL's travel thousands of miles on ships that are under little or no regulation concerning fuel economy, ocean dumping and fuel spills. Is transportation figured into the operations cost for CFL bulbs?

Disposal: In my area, I need to drive about 5 miles to take CFLs to the recycler and they do not accept broken CFLs. Other people do not have the facilities within 100 miles of them. What is the actual cost of disposing of the bulbs correctly and the penalty if 6,000,000 bulbs end up in landfills next year? CFLs are also very touchy! In 5 years I have broken at least 6, or about 1/3 of what I have bought. Any plans in the near future to accept damaged bulbs for recycling???

I am also curious about the actual recycling system for CFLs. What happens to them, exactly, after I return them for recycling? Are they melted down or crushed?? Both would add addition energy costs to each bulb.

There are a lot more issues to consider than just the costs of the bulbs or the electricity used to run them. How much more cost would be added if we have to worry about how it's made, who is making it, how it's transported and how it is disposed of?

Vickie in Seattle, WA

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What are you willing to give up to slow global warming?

What are you willing to give up to slow global warming?

Things that need to be phased out and out-right banned for the good of the planet:

1) Petroleum based motor sports. Make these sports based on alcohol fuels or get rid of them altogether. Why? Most modern gas engines are engineered on race cars. By making the motor sports industry focus on alcohol fuels we will tap into terrific innovations in making alcohol fuels, cleaner burning engines, and greater performance.

2) Corn based food products such as High-fructose corn syrup and corn oil. Why? These products are generally unhealthy and fattening for humans and should be taken out of the public diet and diverted into domestic fuel production. Since 1966, the US has used an increasing share of the corn crop to make High-fructose corn syrup and since 1966 the average American has gained 60 pounds. The best thing we can possibly do with this product is get it out of the diet and into the fuel tank. Or, even better would be to replace all corn with lower input grasses such as Sweet Sorgum or switchgrass and then turn these crops into fuel. Soda drinks alone make up about 9% of the average diet and replacing that 9 % with a zero calorie alternative would amount to a weight loss of about 20 pounds for each American in just the first year.

3) Strawberries in January. Why? The luxury of having food out of season is out of reason compared to the environmental damage associated with transporting the specialty food long distances to market. Most produce grown for this purpose must be hybrid to survive transport, sprayed with many different chemicals to retard spoilage, and shipped in refrigerated containers that use even more energy to maintain the food. This practice is expensive and globally evil considering the total energy input required to get peaches to Safeway in February. This practice needs to be stopped completely and countries need to return to the practice of growing the foods their own people need locally.

4) SUV's, and pickup trucks. Why? No one in the United States should own any vehicle that gets less than 30 miles per gallon. If you need a pickup you should rent it buy the hour instead of driving one everyday "just in case" you might need it. Get things delivered instead of having the upkeep of a energy expensive gas hog. Many people drive an SUV because they think it is safer but The larger SUV's have a completely different (and lower) standard for crash testing, crushing and airbag deployment. These were never designed to be the primary vehicle, therefore they do not have to meet the same requirements as a designated passenger vehicle.

5) Single-Use Plastic. Why? That is a good question.....why do we allow ANY plastic to be made that is not recyclable? Currently less that 5% of the plastics used in the US are types that are considered for recycling. Plastic is pretty much forever so if we had to keep the other 95% forever we would be pushed out of our homes by the mountain of single-use plastics that enter our lives each year. Luckily for us we can send it to the dump, but the time of being able to dump anything and everything is coming to an end. Currently the Pacific Ocean is sporting a brand new island known as the Pacific Garbage Patch- plastic wastes massing twice the size of the State of Texas. This is where a large portion of the previous 50 years worth of plastic has ended up.All plastics must be made "Cradle to Cradle" meaning they can be infinitely recycled and all plastic manufacturers must be held accountable for their products and take steps to insure that no more of it ends up in landfills or the ocean. Most plastics are made from petroleum--we do not allow used oil to be dumped into storm drains and we need to take steps to stop other petroleum products such as plastic from leaving the materials flow and being wasted in a dump site.

6) Travel. Why? Travel for pleasure is a tremendous waste of natural resources compared to vacationing in your own area. Travel for other than business is a waste that needs to be curtailed. 40 years ago our parents and grandparents saved up for their once-in-a-lifetime trip, today we charge the tickets on our credit card and jump to Hawaii for the weekend just because we can afford it. We never seem to think about what this is doing to our environment because the damage in out of sight. Stay home and invest that money in something that will help the planet because the earth cannot afford it anymore.

7) Public Venues. Why? Despite the amount of cash that is raised by concerts, sporting events, and other huge events, the truth is that these gatherings are terrible for the environment. Teams and performers need to travel to the events, people have to travel to the event, huge buildings are heated and cooled and tons of garbage are produced. Look at the aftermath of any parade and it is obvious that the mess is not worth it. The amounts of energy used to fuel 1 pro football game is staggering and the social benefit of such events are pretty much non-existent. With bird flu and other diseases on the horizon, large public assemblies need to be phased out for health and environmental concerns. Socially desirable programs can be televised to paying customers who wish to pay for the privilege. Others who prefer to opt out will enjoy the benefits of not having to get caught in the traffic snarls or having to put up with the trash dropped by attendees.

8) Bigger Anything. Why? In a period of uncertainty concerning the future, it is even more important to keep things in perspective. A moments thought will reveal the simple fact that bigger is definitely not better for the environment. Bigger TV's, bigger houses, bigger computers, games, and just about everything else multiply the energy used per person. It is time to scale back....get smaller more efficient appliances, live smaller, travel smaller. It is kind of silly to buy a huge house, then have to buy a huge TV so you can see it from across the room when you could buy a smaller house and mount a tiny TV on the arm of the sofa.

9) Made in China. America's dependence on cheap goods made around the world is second only to our dependence on foreign oil. The idea of a $1.00 toy being made in China and then shipped to a Dollar Store or Walmart in the US is sickening. The idea of disposable $49 DVD Players takes all social responsibility out of the equation. Buying items that we will throw away next year has got to stop and be replaced by durable goods that can be rebuilt or repaired. The first VCR that hit the market could be cleaned and repaired by a local craftsman. Nothing sold today is meant to be repaired at all so more waste builds up every year. How long can we continue this pattern? How much stuff can each of us throw away and replace with another cheap item before we are literally buried in junk?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

How much do you know about going Green?

Test your knowledge of "Green Technology"

Solar panels are good for the environment-True or False?

Toyota Prius batteries are collected back by Toyota and recycled-True or False?

Cloth grocery bags are better for the environment than plastic bags-True or False?

Everyone should install CFL bulbs to help stop global warming-True or False?

America collects 2 million pounds of rechargeable batteries for recycling every year-True or False?

If we don't switch to Solar panels and wind power, America will run out of energy in my lifetime-True or False?

FALSE. Solar panels(and CFL's) are made in China in huge factories with little or no environmental regulation. Typically the land around one of these Super-Factories is dead all the way down to the bedrock due to heavy metal contamination and industrial runoff. While these products do help the environment in the US and in the UK, the countries that manufacture them suffer. When you add up the damage and subtract the benefits the sum still equals horrific environmental damage rather savings.

FALSE. Toyota does collect Prius batteries for recycling but so far the technology has not reached a point where any batteries have actually been recycled. The batteries being collected are being warehoused in China for a future time when it becomes feasible to recycle them. Another note: While Toyota basks in the Green glow of the Prius, they also build and sell the worlds largest private use pickup trucks, the Toyota Tundra, a pickup with the dubious claim to fame as being the worst gas mileage pickup on the market.

FALSE. Already, most cloth grocery bags on the market are made in China or India. The environmental damage of making these bags and shipping them 10,000 miles negates the environmental savings that would make them desirable. Best solution: Re-use the plastic bags you already have for as long as possible and then make your own bags from reused materials.

FALSE. CFL's bulbs have several problems that make them less than environmentally friendly. While the mercury content of a single bulb is manageable, the impact of 150,000,000 bulbs is dramatic and ominous. (1 bulb in each home in America) Think ahead before you buy: where will you dispose of the bulb when you are done with it? If you have to drive more than 5 miles to take the bulb to a recycler then it isn't saving energy at all. You are just trading electrical savings for gasoline usage.

FALSE. America collects 220 million pounds of batteries for recycling, most are warehoused and about 2% are actually recycled as of 2007.

FALSE. Free energy sources are the Holy Grail for America but the environmental expense of individual solar or wind power systems is staggering. It takes about 1000 solar cells ($20,000 worth) to power a medium sized American home. Obviously that expense takes it out of reach for most people. Thankfully, America does have enough power for a couple hundred more years at current usage and up to 500 years if we conserve more. Alternate fossil fuels, nuclear power and biomass can sustain the US but what we do not have is CHEAP fuel, aka light sweet crude that we buy from overseas. The lights will stay on but the price is going up.

Mass marketing tells America that we can "buy" green and save the future. This is false advertising of the worst kind. There isn't a single thing that you can buy that is actually going to make your lifestyle greener because every item requires a manufacturing process that negates the claims of being green. To actually add some "green" to your lifestyle then dump the advertising campaigns and try something new:

1) Participate in the "Hundred Mile Diet"

2) Spend a "Year Without China"

3) Live more Frugally

4) Drive less and treat your car to a complete tune-up.

5) Grow a portion of your food:,2029,DIY_13826_2269893,00.html

6) Unplug what you are not using.

7) Trade DOWN to smaller TVs and household appliances.

8) Consider working toward a 1 income household and let the home maker actually cook, grow food, and take care of the home. Or, better yet work toward 1 person in the house being a telecommuter.
[This is one that I have become very successful at. I am a telecommuter-I work about 30 hours per week from my home. I also cook every meal from scratch, home can and freeze foods for the future, make wine, bake bread, grow a garden, shop sales, recycle throwaways into useful items, make quilts, etc. Since to switched to telecommuting, I not only make the same take home pay as before but I do not pay for prepared food, home care services, wardrobe, or car expenses. It was an excellent move for my family.]

9) Buy less.

10) Use less

Those are the Top Ten things you can do to help the environment and stop Global Warming.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Batteries Vs. Petrolium-Which is worse?

This may be a good case for the old adage "The devil we know is better than the devil we don't know."

Battery recycling has been a long debated issue that first began with lead car batteries and continues in the age of NiCad and Lithium batteries. Every producer of these new batteries says that the batteries are "recyclable" but what does that really mean? In the case of lead batteries, a global Greenpeace investigation of automobile lead-acid battery collection programs has revealed a massive flow of these extremely toxic wastes from heavily industrialized countries -- particularly Australia, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. -- to many Third World countries, particularly in Asia.

The main factors causing the lead battery waste trade are typical to all waste trade schemes: in industrial countries, the environmental and occupational health regulatory cost of operating lead battery recycling facilities is ever-increasing, and the prices offered for secondary lead are low. It is simply not profitable to operate secondary lead smelters in many industrial countries. Battery brokers are finding more profitable markets in places where workers are paid little, and environmental and workplace regulations are weak and/or unenforced.

The end result of this free trade in toxic waste: thousands of workers and children suffering from lead blood poisoning, rivers and air loaded with lead emissions, and big profits for the lead battery brokers and manufacturers.(1)

Rechargeable batteries are proving to be a challenge when it comes to recycling. While NiCad and Lithium batteries are recyclable in Theory, the actual process is proving to be a bit messy.

The UK's foremost agency for recycling batteries admits that, "For alkaline and zinc carbon batteries, which are the most common types, the UK hasn’t got a full process yet, but we are developing a hydrometallurgical system."(2) Currently the UK is actually recycling about 4% of the non-lead batteries that are discarded each year. (They do recycle about 90% of all discarded lead batteries.)(4)

In the United States the sheer number of these batteries is staggering. According to the U.S.E.P.A 220 MILLION Pounds of batteries and small electronic devices (cell phones & PDA's) enter the waste stream every year. Currently, about 50% are tossed into the trash bucket, and 50% are collected for recycling. Only about 2% of the collected materials are actually recycled, most of this waste is warehoused or sold to Asian countries, mainly China. (3)

It is very easy to make the choice to pick a product that is "recyclable" but it is very difficult to direct how the recycling will be done and where it will be done. The US currently has some pretty well tested laws concerning petroleum controls and nearly none concerning rechargeable battery recycling. Our laws say the companies must take them back but not what the companies need to do with them once they have them. Until those laws go into effect then we will have to live with the consequences.