Category Archives: Green

Toss Your Bic

I recently emptied a Bic pen. For a lot of people, this never happens. Disposable ballpoint pens are so ubiquitous, that we tend to lose them before we run them dry. I’m a bit particular; I almost never lose pens. Consequently, when I empty a pen I’m faced with a decision on how to dispose of it.

I’ve scoured the Internet, and the best course of action is to just toss them. They’re so minuscule that they’re just not worth recycling. On the other hand, being so minuscule makes them the perfect size to poke through a trash bag and escape over the side of a trash barge. Once free, it can makes its way down river and eventually joining the great Pacific Garbage Patch. OK, so that’s just my environmental guilt speaking, but it did get me thinking. Why are all of our pens disposable to some degree or another? They haven’t always been like that.

Fountain Pens

As an alternative to these common disposable pens, I considered using a fountain pen. I started researching them and found out that most inexpensive fountain pens use disposable cartridges. All is not lost though. You can often find converters for these fountain pens. A converter has the proper dimensions of an ink cartridge, but in fact its a small syringe.

Lamy Safari with ink cartridge (installed) and a converter

Lamy Safari with ink cartridge (installed) and a converter

I picked up a Lamy Safari pen, which came with a standard ink cartridge. I then ordered a converter for it. Sure this isn’t the most inexpensive pen out there, but it’s far from the expensive end of the scale.

Fountain pens write amazingly well. It’s a really different experience. I’ve got seriously poor handwriting, but it’s largely the result of being an impatient writer. A fountain pen forces you to slow down as the ink flows steadily and smoothly. If you pick up the habit of writing with fountain pens, you’ll find that the extra $6 to buy the converter will really pay off. Fountain pens lay down a lot more ink than a ball point pen, and so you’ll be going through cartridges pretty often. For me it’s more about reducing that plastic waste, and so saving a little money is just a bonus.

Rollerball Pens

If a ballpoint pen is more your style, then rollerball pens offer a nice compromise. Disposable rollerball pens have been around for a long time, but there are a few models now that actually take fountain pen cartridges. And just like their fountain pen cousins, you can get converters for them as well.

Lyra Calypso with Converter (installed)

Lyra Calypso with Converter (installed)

I picked up a pair of Lyra Calypso pens and converters. I order them from pensations.com, but I’m not linking to their site because it seems that their domain registration may have elapsed recently. The Calypso pen writes incredibly smooth, gliding even better than a fountain pen. The ball makes the ink delivery more even than a fountain pen while not requiring nearly the same kind of pressure as a ballpoint pen. In fact, it’s a little too smooth for me. I find my handwriting is a little better with a fountain pen because the resistance slows me down a little.

What’s old is new again

A while ago, I started carrying a handkerchief as a way of minimizing the napkins and paper towels that I use. Sounds kind of gross, but that’s exactly what our grandparents did when they were young. A little later I started shaving with a safety razor; again just like my grandfathers. I’m not exactly sure what kind of pens they used, but I’m guessing they didn’t have bics when they were kids. I’m starting to think that all of today’s modern (disposable) marvels are inferior versions of their reusable predecessors. I smell the work of marketers.

Shaving Like Your Grandfather

Ever get the feeling that with all of our “progress”, we’ve actually lost track of many of life’s more subtle innovations? A few years ago I got interested in roasting my own coffee, which is something that early Americans did all of the time. Processed green coffee beans last a really long time, but as soon as you roast them you’re in a race to use them before they oxidize and go stale. Modern “marvels” such as batch roasting, advanced packaging, and efficient transport means that no one needs to roast their coffee any more. But are we better off?

The Gillette Fat Boy (1958-1961) is still used by fans today.

The Gillette Fat Boy (1958-1961) is still used by fans today.

I had this déjà vu moment last month as I was looking into safety razors. I wet shave because I have a soft and stubborn beard that refuses to work its way into an electric razor’s guides. I’ve bought into all of the marketing hype and I always uses gels and the latest 12-blade cartridge razor systems out there. All the while I never realized that shaving was perfected generations ago and that all of these modern innovations are garbage.

The Safety Razor

Safety Razors were invented in the 19th century as a means to allow the common man to safely shave at home. Seems that wielding a straight razor on one’s own face is a bit dangerous. Straight razors also required a considerable amount of upkeep. For generations, men used safety razors with disposable, double-edged blades. Then came the disposable razor…garbage.

My dad uses disposable razors, and so that’s what I started with. I hated throwing away those plastic razors back then, and I didn’t even know about the floating island of plastic in the Pacific. When the Gillette Sensor came out, I started using cartridge razors. I figured that they’re a lot more environmentally friendly. I also liked the weight of them more, although I didn’t realize why. When the Gillette Mach 3 came out, I switched over and I’ve been using it for damned near 15 years.

I’ve seen other razors come and go, and I’ve stuck to my Mach 3. I even remember reading the lore about how the little gel strip was invented in order to get people to replace their cartridges sooner than needed since the blades lasted so long. What a load of crap.

Safety razors, with their single blade, provide a far closer shave with way less irritation. It can be scary shaving with only one blade, but that’s where the weight of the razor comes in. If you let the weight help drag the razor across your skin, it’s far less likely to irritate. And they’re way cheaper to use since the blades are so inexpensive. You can get them in bulk from Amazon for just under a dime a piece. The best price I can find on Mach 3 cartridges is about two dollars a piece. Granted, they last a little longer, but they sure as hell don’t list 20x longer. The cartridge refill business is about as shady as the printer ink business.

Shave Soap

A simple brush, mug, and soap is all you need.

A simple brush, mug, and soap is all you need.

After years, I’d finally settled on gel shaving creams. I never quite know what to do with the spent cans. Are they recyclable? Do I need to depressurize them? Now that I’ve picked up a safety razor, I’ve decided to use regular shave soap, lathered up in a mug with a badger hair brush. I was a little skeptical. How could I possibly get a lather as thick as a gel shaving cream? Because that is what works best, right?

Come to find out, the lather from a soap isn’t as dry and thick as a gel shaving cream. I may be able to come closer with a different kind of soap and technique, but I’m not sure if that’s the best rought. The lather from a shave soap is much smoother and more slippery. With a gel shaving cream, I felt like I had to use to use too much pressure to get through the shaving gel and then through the beard. I ended up taking multiple, irritating passes.

I’m excited to try out different soaps, but it might be a while. The stuff lasts forever.

Environmental Impact

Not only does a safety razor and shave soap give me a much better shave; it also has a much lower impact on the environment. I’m not throwing out cans, plastic cartridges, and packaging for those cartridges. I don’t have to worry about what kind of propellant my can uses to foam up the gel either. My lather is built with my arm, simple as that. You might argue that I use a little more fresh water while shaving, but my counter argument is that far less water was used to make my soap and safety razor blades.

As we’ve become more of a disposable nation driven by convenience, it’s hard to fathom just how little our grandparents used to throw away. Back then waste equated to money. But with the rise in cheap plastics, disposable items are typically cheaper…thus encouraging use to buy cheap crap that we end up tossing. Frustrating to say the least.

Update: Here’s a clever idea on how to recycle those blades safely from the Badger and Blade forum.

Office Charging Stations: Breaking Ground

I’ve mentioned before that the facilities manager at my office is a true-blue believer in EVs. He’s had a long career working with industrial electric motors, and understands them to their very core. He’s really supported me and the Enertia from day one. He even putting up with its charging fans blowing right outside of his office inside of our shipping and receiving area. He’s dead set on getting a Nissan Leaf too, because its got the range to suit his commuting needs.

They’re Here

He’s been giving me progress reports on the company’s initiative to install Coulomb Charging Stations at work. There have been some delays with the contractors, but I’m happy to say that they’ve broken ground this week. From the looks of it, we should have five posts serving ten spots with Level 1 and Level 2 charging.

Progress for Day 1

They made a little more progress on day two. There are trenches behind the ledges and some electrical utility boxes installed.The boxes are kind of ugly, so I hope they do something to disguise them. The last thing that I want to hear is people condemning them because they’re ugly. As it is, the location is already taking up exterior spaces where the car worshiping d-bags double park their cars like it’s some sort of Grease era car show.

Progress from day 2

I can’t wait to see them operation. From what I’ve been told, they’ll be open to the public too. So anyone with a ChargePass Card (like me) can use them. I’m not sure if that policy will be permanent, but I can’t imagine that there will be too many non-employees using them. When they go online, hopefully they’ll show up on Coulomb’s Awesome Webapp.

Of course, when they do go online, it means the end of my indoor parking. Oh well. :)

Online Shopping Costs Carbon

Like many people, I find myself doing more of my shopping on Amazon and other e-tailers. I just can’t justify the brick-and-mortar tax at my local big-box retailers. Besides, who has time to go shopping anyhow?

Am I just being lazy? More importantly, what’s the environmental impact of my laziness?

Extra packaging

When goods are shipped to big-box retailers, their retail packages are boxed up on pallets. Hopefully they box them up better than this example. They are generally handled with care, so this seemingly crude boxing isn’t usually a problem. However, when that same retail packages is shipped to you through an e-tailer, it’s repackaged into a larger box filled with packing material. Hopefully you have a an option to recycle that corrugated cardboard and packing material, but regardless, it’s still rather wasteful.

An example of a pallet packed with electronics

Lots of Extra Fuel

These pallets are loaded onto trucks, freight trains, and cargo ships with finite storage volume. Therefore, it’s advantageous that the pallets are packed densely. They’re transported to your local big-box, at which point you typically make small trips to pick up your favorite items.

In the online space, e-tailers receive these same pallets at their distributions centers. There are far few distribution centers, so for the final leg on board semi-trucks, this saves on fuel. However, that’s where it ends. The e-tailer must open the pallets and put the individual retail packages into their bigger boxes and those big boxes are picked up by your favorite carrier services.

Each package is bundled tightly into something similar to a pallet, but at this point they are taking up way more space. More space means more trips by the carrier. Furthermore, a lot of these trips have long portions by air since we just can’t seem to wait a few extra days.

Study Confirms My Intuition

I’m really starting to thing that it’s more efficient for you to shop at a big-box. And it looks like I’m not the only one. This study seems to confirm my intuition.

Shouldn’t Shipping And Handling Cost More

Unfortunately, shipping and handling is way to cheap. Especially with services like Amazon Prime. These carriers are awfully efficient, but in a sense they’re being subsidized in the form of cheap fuel. I’m not saying that they pay less for fuel (although they likely do because they buy it in bulk). I’m actually saying that fuel in America is way to cheap for everyone. If it was more appropriately priced to account for the environmental damage of fossil fuels, then clearly e-shopping would be more expensive and we would all get our lazy selves to our favorite big-box.

Here's my favorite.

First 1500+ Miles on the Enertia

1500+ Miles on the Odometer

Mother Nature has been working against me somewhat lately. Summer’s here, and it’s been raining quite a bit. That means two things: I’ve been riding the Enertia a little less, and I’ve been caught in the rain a few times.

More on the Gulf Spill

I think it’s remarkable that the Gulf Oil Spill was the subject of my last 500 mile installment nearly three weeks ago, and that they’ve just stopped the leak a few days ago it’s still flowing countless barrels of oil. Everyone talks barrels of oil lately, but how does that translate to something more tangible. Media outlets are using square footage comparisons like US states and volume comparisons like gynasiums. Personally, I have a hard time understanding exactly what a barrel of oil means to me. Like any scientifically minded geek, I started researching a crunching some numbers.

So here’s how much diesel I’ve saved by commuting on my Enertia.

1510.7 miles / 14.5 mpg = 101.9 Gallons of Diesel

Now what exactly is a barrel? Hint: it’s not 55 gallons.

1 barrel = 42 US gallons

I originally thought that you could turn crude oil into any type of fuel to suit your needs. But upon reading up more on Oil Refining at HowStuffWorks.com, I discovered that refining oil isn’t as much of a process of transforming crude to a particular fuel as much as it a process of separating the various hydrocarbons and using groups of those different hydrocarbons to make the fuel. Diesel is made primarily of alkanes with 12 or more carbon atoms.

Of the 42 gallons of crude in a barrel, an average of 9.21 gallons of diesel is refined. So here’s the number of barrels of oil that haven’t gone to diesel production for my truck because of my 1500+ miles on the Enertia.

101.9 g diesel * 1 barrel / 9.21 g diesel = 11.06 barrels of oil

This clears up a lot of my misunderstanding of the wildly fluctuating diesel prices. It’s cheaper to refine diesel, but you only get so much of it per barrel of oil. Then when you account for the dramatic increase in demand (partly from the military campaigns in the Middle East), you start to understand why the price would go up more than the price of gasoline.

Barrels of Chain Lube

The next thing to figure out is how many barrels of oil have gone into lube for my chain. OK, that’s mostly a joke, but I am having problems finding a light-weight chain lube that will still last and not sling off. I’ve been getting a lot of chain noise as well as physical knocking. This, of course, is exaggerated by the fact that the Enertia is quiet, low on vibration, and doesn’t have cush drive or rubber mounts on the motor. I can actually feel when the master link goes around the super small front sprocket. I can alleviate this with a heavy application of lube, but it only lasts 1.5 days.

Brammo has been more than accommodating to my compulsion to fix this irritant, and has emailed me advice on proper adjustment and lube. They even sent me a new chain. I should have time to swap it out this weekend, so I’ll comment on this thread if it makes a difference.

First 1000+ Miles on the Enertia

1000 miles on the odometer

I logged another 500+ miles on my Enertia. I’m amazed at how motivated I am to commute on this thing. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve owned road-going motorcycles for most of my adult life, and I’ve never felt compelled to commute on one more than once every month or two. This bike is such a pleasure to commute on. After 4+ weeks, I don’t know what I look forward to more in the morning, My cup of home roasted coffee or my commute into work.

Today’s mpkWh

My Enertia and I are definitely getting much more efficient. I set a personal record on my commute home today.

20.2 miles / 2.14 kWh = 9.44 mpkWh

I thought about putting up some more calculations about how much money I’m saving, but instead I’d like to leave the calculations out and simple state the following:

1000 miles / 14.5 mpg = 69.0 Gallons of Diesel

And that’s obviously diesel fuel that I didn’t burn. That doesn’t sound like much, but I’m just one person. As EV adoption grows, this will become significant.

A Truly Inspiring Ride

During this first month with the Enertia, Earth Week has come and gone. I’m not sure if it was Earth Week or the dozens of green conversations that I’ve had since owning the Enertia, but the environment has been on my mind a lot. Everyone seems to be interested in doing their part, but the overwhelming sentiment is that it costs too much to make any significant difference. The beauty about the Enertia is that it doesn’t take much to make a difference whether you measure in carbon, gallons, or dollars.

For the first 500 miles I showed a simple illustration of how much money I’m saving with the Enertia compared to driving my diesel pickup. I’ll definitely admit that I went from one heck of a guzzler to something much more efficient, and so my results are going to be much more significant that most. I could have seen a significant improvement by going to a modest ICE motorcycle or even a modest improvement with a small sedan. But this whole question of “improvement” depends on the criteria by which you’re judging. Counting carbon is a bit controversial with some, especially global warming doubters. But no one (save for oil barons) can argue the numerous negatives of oil.

Gulf Oil Spill

Well it’s true that I went from doing all of my commuting and errands in my diesel pickup to doing those same trips on a motorcycle, but I think it’s tremendously important that I did that trip without the use of fuel derived from oil. Sure I might get my energy from fossil fuels, but it sure wasn’t from oil pumped out of [and into] the Gulf of Mexico.

I’m from that neck of the woods. I grew up in the Florida Panhandle. We’ve got the worlds most beautiful beaches. The sugar-fine sand is as white as the driven snow and piles up in sand dunes almost overnight. Well what do you think that sand is going to look like mixed with crude oil? I’m thinking something along the lines of a Ben and Jerry’s flavor…with dead seafood mixed in. Gives a whole new meaning to Phish Food, huh?

Joking and tourism aside, let’s just take a second to imagine what’s going to happen to the massively large and delicate wetland ecosystems in the Mississippi Delta. I spent a day diving among the mangroves in Bonaire a few years back, and I learned a lot about these sheltered brackish ecosystems along the shore. They are basically estuaries where the oceans fish are hatched, sheltered, and raised until they can fend for themselves out at sea. These are the same fish that are caught commercially and fed to you and I…well maybe you.

Well not all people care about the ocean as much as I do, but I think everyone agrees that we can find some important reason to us to get off of oil. Loosing countless lives of the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, America, and the various allies is a strong reason to me as well. Global warming, the bleaching of the worlds ocean reefs, and the loss of island nations are a few others. I don’t care how much of a global warming denier you are…burning oil to get our lazy selves to the nearest fast food drive through has got to end in our lifetime.

Counteracting EVs’ Impact on the Grid

Let’s just say that the Enertia is a bit of a conversation piece. I literally have 3-4 “green” conversations every day. Most of the time the people that approach me are very friendly and supportive. Every now and then you’ll run across someone that starts out friendly, and then ends up in debate mode. I’ve often wondered why people get like this..and why debate the merits of EVs with me? I’ve got a theory, and is has something to do with their guilt surfacing a little then their pride overcompensating and immediately putting them on the defensive…even if I haven’t said a word.

That's a lot of cars to plug in.

Is Electric That Much Better?

Regardless of my pseudo-psycho-babble, this is one thing that I hear a lot from these “debaters”.

“Is electric that much more efficient? I mean there are heavy losses due to transmission. Much of America’s power generation is from coal still. And ICE engines are way more efficient than they ever have been.”

Well, I was one of the lucky engineers who’s curriculum didn’t require him to take thermodynamics, so I really can’t comment on the efficiency gains in ICEs. My EE background is awfully weak too, so I have no idea how much energy is lost to heat radiation in our nations long distance transmission lines. However, the topic has been tackled by bloggers and scientists alike here, here, here, and somewhere in here.

Sometimes, people talk about more specific issues, such as the strain on the nation’s power grid. They realize that the power has got to come from somewhere, and Nuclear Fusion isn’t here yet so it comes down to picking the lesser of several evils. Motorcycle.com recently posted a great Electic Motorcycle Primer and summed up the sentiment nicely.

However, while EVs can appeal even to conservatives, another concern is over where all the extra electricity would come from if the EV phenomenon really took off.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. That’s not to say that I’ve done any kind of research into powerline losses to radiation or even whether or not I get my power from the local nuclear fission plant or from coal. Honestly, all of that seems a little out of my control, but then inspiration hit. Why not look at what is in my control… The beauty about electricity is that it’s readily available to us. It’s readily available for me to use at home and work…but perhaps more importantly, it’s there for me to not use.

Offsetting My Enertia Energy Consumption

I love it when I get inspired. I set out to try and recover my daily energy consumption from my Enertia charges by doing some very simple work around the house. When I mean simple…I did most of this stuff at home while drinking beers one evening. I grabbed my trusty Kill A Watt, and went to town.

Best $19.99 you'll ever spend.

The first thing that I did, was to look for anything that’s plugged in that is rarely used. I was ashamed at what I started to uncover. I basically just took instantaneous reading to see what the power draw was for various appliances.

I started in the garage looking at my “garage theater system” and anything else I could find.
3.4 W * 24 h – PC Speakers in the Off position.
2.4 W * 24 h – DC Transformer for unplugged Wifi Bridge.
3.8 W * 24 h – Unused Motorcycle Battery Tender for Racebike.

Then I moved inside to the den, AKA my man cave.
13.4 W * 24 h – Home Theater Subwoofer accidentally set to On instead of Auto-On
1.4 W * 24 h – Home Theater Receiver
0.0 W * 24 h – Sony PS3
0.9 W * 24 h – Nintendo Wii
23.5 W * 24 h – HD Cable DVR
1.9 W * 24 h – 42″ LCD TV
22.0 W * 24 h – Uninterpretable Power Supply
1.3 W * 24 h – Empty Glade Plug-in Air Freshener

I didn’t find much in the kitchen.
1.3 W * 24 h – Another empty Glade Plug-In Air Freshener

And I don’t have much in my living room, save for my Mame arcade cabinet with the MythTV server.
6.2 W * 24 h – Broken Roomba Docked on its Charger
19.73 W * 24 h – Savings on MythTV Server through running Granola

There wasn’t much in the office as far as vampire appliances. But there was the rather obvious light fixture…duh!
45 W * 3 * 4 h – Replaced 3 60 incadescents with 3 13 W CFLs in my light fixture

OK, that was pretty ridiculous. I spend a few hours maybe twice a month in my den, unless I’m caught up in a video game. All of those items in the den can easily be turned off with a power strip when not in use, and they take no time to boot. The only exception is my cable box, but I so very rarely use it. I watch 98% of my TV on a Linux desktop in the office streaming from my MythTV backend. I can get the other 2% (motorcycle racing) through bittorrent. I’ve been meaning to cancel the HD DVR service and return it…I’ve just been too lazy.

Speaking of my MythTV server, I’ve been giving myself a lot of grief lately for running that puppy 24/7. I recently saw something pop up on digg.com about Granola. It is supposed to do more aggressive voltage and frequency scaling on Linux and Windows machines by providing proprietary algorithms that switch cpufreq governors back and forth based on performance need. I suspect they’re just watching things in /proc and responding to it in some sort of way that more intelligent that the “ondemand” governor. Anyhow, the savings that I report for my MythTV server come from Granola’s calculations/estimations, and not my own measurements.

So the grand total daily saving for my home improvements is: 2.97 kWh per day.

Savings in the (Work) Office

I could have called it quits with my savings that I found at home, but I charge up at work (for free) too. Furthermore, I tend to spend more waking hours at work than I do at home. So I decided to count the charging that I do at work, and to try to see how much energy I save during the day. Now I loosened up the rules a little bit. I’m already rather conscious about my energy consumption at work, so I’ve decided to count the things that I’ve been doing for quite a while along with a few new things.

17.66 W * 24h – Saving on Windows Desktop through running http://grano.la/
~3 W * 24h – Saving on Linux Desktop by setting “ondemand” governor (cpufrequtils)
25 W * 3 bulbs * 8h – Keeping my fluorescent lights off and using natural light

I couldn’t get Granola installed on my Linux workstation. I was having some problems due to the fact that I don’t have enough admin rights to add a new user to the machine. But that got me thinking…what I could talk IT into installing this on all of our Linux and Windows machines. As it is, by personally installing Granola on one machine at work, I might be in violation of their TOS. I’ll consider it an experiment at this point. I did get some savings on that machine through changing the cpufreq governor from “performance” to “ondemand. I measured about a 3 W difference when running the two cores at 2.0 GHz instead of 3.17 GHz.

The story might get a little better if I can get some measurements on my Linux desktop, but this is my savings in the office so far: 1.09 kWh.

How Did I Do?

With my latest Enertia efficiency calculations, I use 3.22 kWh to charge for my 30.4 miles commuted a day. And it looks like I’ve saved 4.06 kWh of energy a day through my changes at home and at work. That’s a net savings of 0.84 kWH.

Finally I have some “ammo” for the debaters that question if the Enertia is that much more efficient than an equivalent ICE motorcycle. I’ve offset the Enertia’s charging requirements…and then some. The only way I could get a Ninja 250 to be that efficient, is to slap some pedals on it. And what about the Enertia’s impact to the grid. I’ve actually found enough savings so that I’m actually lessening the impact to the grid.

I’m starting to think of the Enertia as an “ease-over” vehicle. I consider the Chevy Volt and other PHEV (plug-in hyrid EVs) as ease-over vehicles as well. They are solutions that help us bridge the gap to all-electric transportation without impacting the grid too heavily. These low-impact vehicles are going to be incredibly important to help us buy more time. The way I see it, our energy is running out, but in order to make sure it lasts we need to invest a tremendous amount of it to build renewable power plants, new long-range EVs, and smart grid infrastructure. The only way we’ll be able to afford the energy for such a massive build up, is to start saving energy now through the use of these ease-over vehicles and through energy conservation.

Thoughts on Earth Week 2010

Earth Week came and left again this year. I saw plenty of great facts and ideas all shared with enthusiasm. My employer did their part to spread the good word through informational emails, postings, and guest speakers. I even gave a little demonstration of my Enertia and answered a bunch of questions.

Original Earth Week Logo from 1970

My week was capped off by a hilarious exhibit of irony. I saw a guy in a Prius delivering phone books in my neighborhood. I commented to the guy how ideal a Prius is for the stop and go deliveries that he’s making. He agreed, but when I told him I didn’t want a phone book he really didn’t get it. “It’s free, Dude. Are you sure?” So perhaps the message isn’t getting to everyone.

Earth Week is Not a Diet

As I was riding home this afternoon, I started to wonder how many practices really stick with people once the week is over. I saw a few new people drinking out of the free waterbottles that they gave out some time ago. They gave out free mugs at work this week, too. Yet I still saw plenty of occurrences of people grabbing disposable cups of coffee and bottled water from the fridge, likely just out of habit.

I’m not trying to guilt people into picking up better habits, and I’m especially not trying to pat myself on the back. I’m really just trying to understand people’s behaviors and thought patterns with regards to their habits. I’m oversimplifying a bit, but I think people are just adverse to change. That’s not to say that they don’t want to change, I just think people go about it entirely wrong. They rush into it and make too many changes at once. Soon overwhelmed they slip back into their old habits. It’s the same reason that people yo-yo diet instead of making permanent changes to their lifestyle. Let’s not let Earth Week just be another diet.

Making a Slow Lifestyle Adjustment

When it comes to the environmental impact of my habits, I tend to make slow changes over time. Like many people, it started years ago by simple things like shutting off the water while I brushed my teeth. When I moved off to college I started recycling. I changed my habits with lights in the house and made sure to turn off nearly every light unless I was in the room. Eventually I moved to CFLs. Then I gave up bottled water, started carrying a water bottle and a coffee mug. I reduced my paper waste while eating out. Heck, maybe I’ll start carrying handkerchiefs so I don’t have to use disposable napkins at all.

The interesting thing about all of these habits is that really none of them are mine. They’re all ideas that were in fad at one point in time and so I just picked them up one-by-one (except maybe for the handkerchiefs). If I would have just started doing all of this one day, it’s very doubtful that I’d be doing any of them today.

Tree Hugger's Hankie

I feel that Earth Week is a good way to raise awareness, but I’m not sure it’s leading people to change. As soon as the week is over, the guilt is washed away and people are grabbing for that bottled water in the fridge again. I think Earth Week needs to continue to raise awareness, but that each year it should focus on one aspect of daily life and try to promote a new, environmentally friendly habit in that area.

With that, I propose that Earth Week 2011 be the week that the world starts using handkerchiefs again. I’m tired of seeing dudes stand there grabbing napkin after napkin because the dispenser is one of those smart ones that only give you one at a time.