Thursday, July 26, 2007

How walkable is your home?

Considering a move to a new house or apartment? How "walkable" is it? Here's a site that can advise you.

My home on 2 acres in the countryside has a very poor score.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How we are getting a little greener, day by day.

We're doing more little thing to try and green up our household.

We are situated on 2 acres just outside of our town of 30,000 people. Not exactly urban sprawl, but 2 acres still requires lot of mowing. I've surrendered the lower 1/4 acre back to nature. Actually, the conversion to nature started at the beginning of summer when the river flooded. A nice meadow is growing, and I appreciate the savings in time and gas.

We've replaced nearly every incandescent light bulb with compact florescents.

I'm going a little bit longer between lawn mowings, trying not to be so obsessive about the grass.

I'm riding bike to work as often as my schedule lets me. I'm really enjoying this, and getting a workout as well. Also fixed up an old moped and am enjoying riding it on days when I'm too lazy to bike or its too windy.

We've cancelled delivery of the local newspaper, opting instead to read it online. We're lucky that our paper has a good online component. I enjoy not having a ton of paper to recycle each month. In addition, we're saving $30 a month ($35/mo subscription delivery vs $5 online subscription).

Earlier this summer, I installed a shade garden over a chunk of the lawn. It helps to return rainwater from the roof back to the ground, as well as water that we remove from the ground with our sump pump (we had been pumping the sump well water directly into the sewer system).

We continue to recycle, and we're trying to be more aware of buying local foods, and bulk foods that reduce packaging.

We signed up with our utility to purchase wind energy for much of our household electricity.

I paid a little bit of money to neutralize the carbon emitted from my Mercury Mountaineer. It was fairly cheap. Learn more about buying carbon credits here. Also am trying to drive more efficiently, consolidate trips, and am experimenting with a fuel additive that supposedly raises my gas mileage.

We hung a clothes line in the backyard. On days when conditions are right, we hang the laundry out to dry.

These things are all small. None of them has required any significant sacrifice in any way (time, effort or finance). Most of these items have been fun, easy to implement and hopefully will make a small difference. The goal is to sustain these changes, and continue to look at our lives and see where else we can make a difference. Its been a fun learning experience that continues to open our eyes.

For a more radical approach, check out the blog of No Impact Man.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The exciting future of Youngstown, OH

After 40 years of population loss and tough economic times, the population of Youngstown has fallen to about 80,000 people, fully half of its population high. While many might consider this a depressing end to a once thriving metropolis, Youngstown, Ohio has decided not to fret. Instead, Youngstown is reinventing itself, creating an exciting future by focusing on becoming a great place to live.

Youngstown 2010 is an exciting vision that challenges the dearly held American value that bigger is always better, that urban sprawl is good.

As more and more of the city's land is falling under control of the tax assesor because of delinquencies, the people of Youngstown are using this as an opportunity to revisualize their city. Instead of a sprawling city with lots of vacant lots, Youngstown 2010 is about coming to terms with being a smaller city, and finding ways to create a more sustainable city. They are rethinking where future development should occur, where infrastructure and services should be provided, and the best ways to utilize the cities assets.

I applaud the people of Youngstown for undertaking this amazing journey! If the initiative is not hindered by petty interests, Youngstown, OH will certainly become a text book case of sustainability and smart planning.

I've never even been to Youngstown, OH, and already I am excited about what's going on there. Any preceived ideas I may hold about Youngstown have been replaced by curiosity and a hearty respect for the visionaries the call this rising city their home.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

What's the big deal about the Chevy Malibu Hybrid?

Finally. Eight years after Toyota introduced the Prius, GM is introducing a hybrid for the Chevy Malibu.

Lets see.
The 2007 Chevy Malibu got 24 city, 32 hwy.

The 2008 Malibu hybrid will get 24 city, and 32 hwy.

That's it?? Thats the best GM can do? Hopefully their other hybrid models will show a more impressive MPG improvement.

Increasingly, I am becoming convinced that there is no hope for the U.S. auto industry. What a huge disappointment.

Hey, GM -- just in case you've decided to listen to your prospective buyers, I will offer this bit of wisdom from the market place: we don't want hybrid cars that get the same mileage as last year's non-hybrid models. We want comfortable cars that get great mileage, and if hybrid technology delivers that, then we will buy them. We will not buy a hybrid just because you slap a hybrid logo on it. What we expect is that there to be some benefit to the hybrid technology, like great gas mileage.

Gas Back at $3.20, set to go higher.

Because of a flood in Kansas that impacted a refinery, our gas prices in Minnesota have jumped almost overnight from $2.95 to $3.20.

I hope to goes to $5. I firmly believe thats the only way that we'll be able to find the national will to make the change.

If it were up to me, I'd slap a $2/gallon tax on gasoline and use it to fund national healthcare. Kill two birds with one stone.

Biking to work, thanks to Al Gore and Live Earth.

I was inspired by the Live Earth event. So much has been written about it that I won't elaborate. Suffice it to say that Live Earth inspired at least one person (me) to start thinking differently about getting to work.

I commute about 6 miles to work one way. It occurred me after signing the Live Earth pledge that, hey, if the weather is nice, its not too windy, rain is not expected and I don't have to pick up the kids -- I could bike into work and save a gallon of gas in the Mountaineer. So far I've had 3 recent opportunities to ride the bike.

Without going too hardcore too fast, Live Earth challenged me to look at what I could be doing. What little steps can I take right now, today, tomorrow, to do just a tiny bit. If its easy and fun, I should be doing it. Eventually, I'll find the strength and will to do the hard things. And so my journey has begun with this baby step.