Category Archives: 30 ways in 30 days

Catching up: Salt Lake City

We fell off the blog map for a little bit there, but we are jumping back on track.

I was trying to think of where we left off, and I believe it was somewhere around Utah. We spent a few days in early May in Salt Lake City Utah at the National Green Building Conference and Expo. I personally like going to all of these events because they are a perfect way to see what’s happening in the green building market in each region and to experience the city first hand.

Excited to be in Utah

I hadn’t spent a lot of time in Salt Lake, or even researched much of their green building market. When I got there I immediately knew I wanted to spend some time exploring the city. I was excited to see what it had to offer. There were 2 things that were immediately striking. The crisp mountain air, and the Rockies. The mountains towering over downtown were stunning. It was a welcome reminder that our society remains immersed within nature, not the other way around.

With all of the building and green initiatives centered in Salt Lake, I would have expected to see a higher turnout at the show.

We learned that the area had experienced a period of growth that The Downtown SLC Alliance describes  as the “downtown boom” from 1990 through 2002. I spent some time talking to locals of the area and they all remarked on the dramatic change the city has experienced. Out of all the development that has occurred, the rail system really caught my attention.

Trax: from Utah.edu

In order to manage the visitors of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the city installed the public rail system that travels throughout the downtown area. There have been so many public transportation projects that have been shut down since the economy has been struggling, when it seems that these are the types of projects that can benefit business within the city and state along with the citizens and our planet.

I want to keep chatting but I need to wrap up. Salt lake: a great city. I went for a run every day. I wanted to soak in the crisp mountain air and see as much of the city as possible.

Another highlight was that we were able to bring along the newest member of our team, Tom Ramus. (He is in the picture on the far left) He spent some time with us in San Diego to learn the intricacies of the PV Solar Shutter. Before he headed back to Chicago to get to work he was able to help us out at the show.

The show turned out to be a quality over quantity situation for us. We had a great time at the show, and met some great people.

My personal highlight:  Salt Lake showed me that the ‘retro fit’ for the rail line within a city is not only feasible but can be extremely successful.

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Filed under 30 ways in 30 days, Conservation, Energy Efficiency, NAHB, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Responsible Materials, Solar, Weatherization, Window Coverings

A Green Thumb

After being recruited to write a quick blog about our experiences last Friday volunteering for the Green Learning Adventure (GLA) I decided to use this opportunity to join Dan in coming up with new ways to lead a more sustainable, environmentally conscious life.

First, a little recap of the GLA. I met up with Bennet after he and Dan educated Sea World employees, we then headed out to a community recreation center that was holding a small Earth Day celebration for elementary and middle school children. There were a handful of environmental education booths for the kids to visit – each kid was required to visit every booth and learn what each had to offer. For some incentive they could enter a raffle at the end to win some cool prizes, including surf lessons. After we spoke to each and gave them a spin on Pedal Power (the human-powered energy bike that demonstrates how much electricity it takes to run lighting and other household items), we would give them a sticker moving them one step closer to the raffle. Each booth would then do the same making for a great day of education.

It was a blast showing the kids the energy differences in the older incandescent light bulbs and the newer more energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL’s use about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and lasts up to 10 times longer – energystar.gov). I was also amazed at some of the knowledge these children already had – some were even educating ME on what they knew about “vampire loads” and energy efficient light bulbs that their families were already using. We later learned that the community rec center runs programs about energy efficiency and renewable energy.

All in all it was a great experience and I look forward to helping the GLA in the future, it is important to educate the next generation about living sustainably.

As for our next initiative in this project we wanted to move onto a slightly different topic – horticulture. Our recent blog posts have opened us up to new energy and water saving tips and our next step will involve using good ole’ Mother Nature in order to make our everyday lives healthier and happier. We have already started a very nice backyard garden including different varieties of tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, peas, strawberries, and a small citrus tree. Our two green thumbs behind the operation, Dan and Colin, have made some great strides towards harvesting farm fresh, organic produce in the backyard.

In the next few days I want to bring some greenery inside in order to freshen up the house. Using house plants as decoration will not only look nice but they will also help improve the air quality. According to Eartheasy.com NASA recently released a study that ranks the top plants for reducing indoor air pollutants. I will be sure to look at some of these for ideas on selecting plants. By doing this, we will make our rooms brighter and more inviting and make us feel more connected to nature.

Stay tuned for the results and a little bit more on connecting our built environment with the natural landscape that surrounds us.

-T. Ufferman

Alley Garden - Adding something fresh to the back alley.

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Filed under 30 ways in 30 days, Buy Local, Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Environment, Gardening, Philanthropy, Uncategorized

Unplug and Shamu?

I hope everyone had a great Earth Day. I am ready to get back in to the swing of things. I plan on giving a breakdown of whats been going on, and what the future plan is tomorrow.

On Friday, a few of us from Plug ‘N Save were able to volunteer our time with the California Center for Sustainable Energy’s Green Learning Adventure. We traveled to two locations; the first stop was at SeaWorld. My coworker Bennet had been scheduled to go, and I managed to wiggle my way in to the trip. I was able to spend some time working with employees sharing general electricity management tips.

After all the things we discussed at the event, I realized I needed to step my game up. I had talked about all the things you can do to reduce you bill, and then I thought if I did these things myself. Needless to say I had a lot of room for improvement. When I spent a minute thinking about all the things that use energy even when they are not powering something, and compared that to the things I knew I had plugged in, I saw an easy fix. After the event, I decided to walk around SeaWorld and see what it was all about. It was my first trip, so I went to see Shamu!

mini Shamu doing a little helicopter spin

It was awesome. I sat in the ‘soak zone’ and, well, got soaked. I felt like a little kid, but it was awesome. During the show they really do an amazing job incorporating conservation and preservation awareness. During some points I got chills. It was inspiring, what can I say. They do what they do, and they do it well.

But back to electricity. I started getting the cords organized in my room; I consolidated the cords to two places and in power strips, one for my desk and the other at my entertainment center. This will not only save me some pennies, but it cleaned up the spaces. I wanted to do this at work too. We use a lot more electrical appliances and tools, so I wanted to see what I could get in to a power strip. I decided to start with my desk.

Custom power strip, snazzy set up.

I got all of my computer and phone components plugged in to one power strip. Todd and I share a desk, so I got a few things of his to fit in there too, it worked out well. When i leave work, i can just reach under my desk and flip the switch.

Now, I’m going to spout off some of the general info we were discussing at the SeaWorld event.

The typical American home has about 50  appliances that consume power all day, which represents between five to eight percent of a household’s total electricity use per year. This is approximately 65 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (www.energy.ca.go). This lost energy represents the electricity generated in the U.S. by about 35 power plants, or 95 billion pounds of carbon dioxide released into the air.

By turning off power strips hooked up to computers, internet modems, and copiers, each household could save around $100 a year . Turning off your computer monitor during the day, even with your computer still on, can save much more energy than a screensaver and remember to unplug telephone, toothbrush, PDA, and portable tool chargers from the wall when not in use (www.energy.ca.gov).

I mentioned that there were two stops. I stayed at SeaWorld, and Bennet moved on with the Green Learning Adventure to pick up Todd. They headed inland to an event at a recreation center. I’m going to have Todd write a quick bit about what they did… because I don’t really know.

I got some ideas from a few college friends recently too, and with the graduation season coming up,we will be looking at ways to celebrate with our theme in mind.

-Dan Conroy, Colin Johnson

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Filed under 30 ways in 30 days, Carbon Footprint, Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Philanthropy

Easter treats for Earth Day

I missed putting up a new post yesterday, but spent a lot of time looking for ideas. I will admit that finding a new idea for everyday is pretty difficult, but I am still having fun working on some of the previously posted ideas. So far, the biggest ‘change’ is that I really do spend time thinking about my daily actions and how I can improve them. Feel free to help out with some suggestions or let me know some small things that you do too.

Today, my roommate Todd Ufferman got a package in the mail from his parents in the mail. Mrs. Debbie Ufferman sent him some easter treats that were right in tune with our theme. She added in his Easter basket a few pretty cool environmentally friendly gifts. With Easter coming up on the same weekend as Earth Day, there are a lot of events that are incorporating both of the occasions, these type of items are a great way to change up the traditional basket.

Todd is fascinated by these eggs

She sent Funky Mamacita, a fair trade organic coffee from Higher Grounds, a Theo organic fair trade chocolate bar, and some environmentally friendly stamps. She also added some eggs that your crack open, water them, and grow plants out of them. I thought this gift basket was a great idea. Thanks Mrs. Ufferman and Happy Earth Day!

The goodies

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Filed under 30 ways in 30 days, Buy Local, Free Trade, Gardening, Recycled Materials

Save Water

Water conservation will not only protect our most valuable natural resource, but it will save some money too. Out of the whole solar system, we are the lucky ones that are dubbed the ‘blue planet’, thats pretty sweet. Living by the ocean can leave you disillusioned about the amount of water we have available. I see vast amounts of water everyday, but when you consider the freshwater we use for everything from drinking, cooking, washing our cars, ourselves, our dogs, the numbers are pretty crazy to actually think about. Good old Wikipedia will tell you just about everything you need to know, well for our general purposes. “Out of all the water on Earth, only 2.75 percent is fresh water, including 2.05 percent frozen in glaciers, 0.68 percent as groundwater and 0.011 percent of it as surface water in lakes and rivers.”

A great way to start this would be with some new fixtures. There are countless new products available that can cut down your usage without even really doing anything else. Aside from the installation, the appliance does all the work for you. Easy changes, thats what I’m talking about. Treehugger.com has a bunch of cool articles on water conservation and a lot of other subjects for that matter. “Spending about $30 on low-flow showerheads and faucets is estimated to save 45 gallons of that 260 gallons of water, almost 18% of your usage.” Those numbers seem pretty outrageous, but I guess thats what the average household uses daily? Nuts.

On the Clock

But since I wont be installing any new appliances, I am going to try some quick and easy approaches. First we turned off the sprinklers in our lawn. The grass is soaked in dew every morning and the ground itself  is soggy before the sprinklers even turn on. If the lawn goes brown, I’ll consider turning them back on. I’ve also been water my garden in the evenings, just to prevent some evaporation during the day. Inside the house I’m working on two of the easiest things I could immediately think of; full loads of laundry, and shorter showers. I am going to wash on cold-cold to save some energy, and only put in full loads. I am also going to watch the clock when I’m taking my showers. I want to keep them under 5 minutes. I enjoy my nice hot showers as much as the next person. So I guess this means my next project is to look for a good new way to wind down at the end of the day.

Let’s try and save some of this water stuff for later, we might get thirsty.

-Dan Conroy

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Filed under 30 ways in 30 days, Conservation, Responsible Materials, Surfrider Foundation, Water conservation

Junk Mail

I’m looking into reducing junk mail. I hate getting junk mail. I check the mailbox every day, and pull out various publications that I have never subscribed to or have ever read. According to a Newsweek.com article, “89 percent of consumers say in polls that they’d prefer not to receive direct-marketing mail; 44 percent of it is never opened.”

This particular concern originally grew from an internship at the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District. I would perform routine maintenance inspections on the storm drain systems in housing developments. Long story short, a significant portion of my day was spent pulling newspapers out of the drains and tossing them in the back of my truck. By the end of each work day when I returned to the office I would have about 15-20 soggy newspapers piled up in the bed. That number is probably a insignificant compared to how many eventually washed into nearby lakes and streams. I was a paper boy for 4 years. I never missed that many porches.

So after 3 summers of garbage picking, you just start to notice these things. Here in San Diego I see the same problem, but coupons and advertisements are the main culprit. I actually opened a catalog this weekend that was addressed to ‘Mrs. Whoever Her Name Was, or… Current Resident’. I am receiving jewelry and fashion magazines that I never subscribed to. Honest, I didn’t. I wanted to wait until I got home to post this to see what I was in the box. And believe it or not I got another catalog.

Today's Mail

“Each year, 19 billion catalogs are mailed to American consumers. All those catalogs require more than 53 million trees and 56 billion gallons of wastewater to produce.” That one is from an MSN lifestlye article titled, “15 Simple Steps That Actually Make a Difference for the Environment.”

I signed up at CatalogChoice.org, so hopefully this should slow down some of the bigger stuff. It’s kind of a big process to have even one blocked. It appears that I’ll have to do it one bye one. I’ll let you know how it goes.

So for now, whenever I’m walking my dog or running around, I’m going to try and pick up most of the litter I see laying around too.

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Filed under 30 ways in 30 days, Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Environment, Recycled Materials, Responsible Materials

3: Saddle Up

I just used my gasbuddy app. and I realized when I got excited about $4.09 a gallon that something was wrong. I wasn’t expecting it to be under $4.10, what a treat! Regardless, this just gave me that little extra incentive I needed to finish fixing up my single speed commuter. I had stolen a bunch of parts from it for another bike, so it was left in a corner, minus the brakes or cables, tires or front wheel. It looked pretty sad. So i’m going to spend the afternoon getting in back in riding condition.

This could take a while. But it will be worth it.

I was up in LA at a USGBC event, and listened to Eric Corey Freed deliver a rather humorous presentation about our dependencies, the environment and what we choose to do about it. It was mentioned that no matter how many solar panels we put up we will remain addicted to oil.

I need to quit being a baby about it and to stop taking my car on short trips. I love mountain biking, but it’s always hard to make bike commuting a regular part of my day. So it’s time I just get riding. I’m sure the warm spring days will help my attitude about the whole thing. It will be fun.

I just signed up at peopleforbikes.org and they spout some pretty cool info for you. A blurb caught my eye that said, “3 hours of riding per week reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke by %50”. What a bonus. And, “one pound of CO2 pollution cut for every one mile peddled.” Bam, that’s enough for me right there. Cutting back greenhouses and improving your personal health. Awesome. Thats a win-win-win. You win, the Earth wins, and bike shops win. I am an advocate for small business, so I’m looking for a shop around my area here in San Diego. If I’m pulling for personal health and environmental advocacy, what better business to support than a bike shop?

Back in Delaware, Ohio I was a devoted customer to Breakaway Cycling. They have a cool shop with a really helpful staff. When I work on my bike, I generally make it worse, so it’s nice to have some people around that know what they’re doing. And they don’t scowl at you because you aren’t riding the new Superfly 29er (or something like that) and are happy to facilitate any riders needs. There can be a certain stuffy stigma around biking communities. Don’t let this deter you, it’s not everywhere. There are a ton of great people out there that would love to get more people into cycling.  The right place will help you figure out the whole mess. Little did Breakaway know, they would be the facilitating my personal fitness and environmental initiatives.

Or wait, maybe they did…

I found some interesting links from breakaway’s website. A large part of the cycling movement is the beautification element. Simply put, bikes and people work in harmony. They create a clean, quiet, comfortable, healthy atmosphere in which we directly interact. It’s a pretty cool way of looking at things. Well… I’ve got a lot of work to do. Wish me luck.

-Dan Conroy

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Filed under 30 ways in 30 days, Buy Local, Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Outdoor Adventure, Renewable Energy, Uncategorized, USGBC