I Will Not Be Joining the Movement

You know, the Going Green Movement. 

I have plenty of reusuable bags and while I don’t use them in every store on every day, I certainly use them for groceries.  I made an effort to understand the ins and outs of home recycling and even posted about it.  In fact, now that I am looking at it, this is the 17th time I have posted something under my Green tag.

I believe I have mentioned my daily calender for 2010 is 365 little ways to go green.  They aren’t all little.  And here is where I draw the bloody line:

June 3:  “Make sure you are not overheating bedrooms at night.  Not only is it a waste of energy, it’s considered unhealthy to sleep in a room that is too warm.  Keep the thermostat at about 59 (degrees) F for adults and 64 (degrees) F for children and the elderly.”

First of all, people, if you use the “don’t sleep in a room that is too warm” argument, it hardly helps the A/C problem in the summer.  And it is summer, so this advice is coming at the wrong time for the United States.   Was it published in Australia?  No.  Wisconsin.  But more importantly – 59 degrees?!  The thermostat in my house is set at 69 in the winter and I still sleep under layers of flannel and down alternative.  The other day when the temperature dropped, my house got down to 67 and I could barely get out of bed.  I nearly turned the heat back on.  In June.  And 64 for children?  Puleeze.

It is recommendations like this that ensure I will never really be able to get on the Bandwagon.

Real Rules of Recycyling

The Chicago Tribune printed a great article this weekend about things that will and will not be recycled by its curbside program.  It was really timely because we have been debating a few things about the program in my house lately.  Things I learned:

  1. Starbucks coffee cups will not be recycled by the average curbside service.  Apparently, cups for hot liquids have a “thin synthetic lining”.
  2. Plastic containers will recycle, other plastic stuff won’t.  Apparently, the containers have coding that sorts them into one category or another and other plastic materials don’t.  Plastic hangers, utensils and CD cases were specifically mentioned.
  3. “Newspaper, cardboard, paperboard (cereal boxes) and scrap paper” are good.  The article doesn’t say specifically, but I read it to mean that  glossy catalogs, envelopes with plastic windows and magazines are not.

And while I already knew this, I feel the need to mention it: if there is food left in the container, the sorters will just toss it.

Please note that this article was written based on the the recycling in the city of Chicago, so some of the details may vary from city to city.  But the Rule of Thumb was valuable: “If the item is a container for food or laundry detergent bought in a grocery store, it’s probably accepted.” 

Wind Farms

The Chicago Tribune just ran a rather good article about the pros and cons of wind farms out in DeKalb County. DeKalb is about an hour and a half from Chicago, so not exactly the middle of nowhere.

So. The pros: Clean energy and a lot of people stand to make a lot of money from the projects. The investors, the counties and the farmers that are leasing their land to the energy companies. Here is the statistic that struck me:

“Each turbine, which takes up about 3 acres total, pays Halverson about $9,000 per year, he said. That compares with the going rate of about $180 per acre per year to lease farmland in DeKalb County, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

The first arguments I heard against wind farms were “eye sore” (which I don’t buy because I think they are rather pretty) and “noise pollution”. The article goes on to say that there are reports of vertigo and migraines, not to mention some really stressed out farm animals. It seems the vertigo comes from the low frequency sound that can mess up your sense of balance, like motion sickness. And the migraines can be caused by the “shadow flicker” of the sunshine on the turbine blades.

I would be prone to both of those things.

One of the local residents took this video to show what the “shadow flicker” looks like. It doesn’t seem that bad until you think that it is happening every single day all over the house.

I couldn’t live with this.

I am not sure what the answer is, except perhaps to find less populated areas for the turbines and better methods of distribution to support the necessary distance. I wouldn’t want to give up on the concept, though.

Five Cent Bags

I heard a lot of grumbling about this last week and I was going to wait a bit to watch the (r)evolution before commenting, but the AP just ran an article on Washington DC’s new tax on disposable bags.  Every time you buy something in DC, the cashier will ask if you want a bag (or how many).  You are then charged 5 cents per bag.  The article talks about people avoiding it by shopping in Virginia – where other taxes are higher – or imperiling their purchases.

Apparently, the tax is an attempt to clean up the Anacostia River by reducing litter. My plastic bags almost never end up in the garbage.  In fact, I let up on using the reusables a bit because we kept running out of plastic bags to hold our recycling.  And the smaller ones I brought to the library for use at the Used Book Store. 

Here is my favorite part of the piece:

“This is like a behavioral economist’s dream,” Dan Ariely, an economics professor at Duke University and author of “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions,” told the Washington Post. “Here we will see people go to extreme lengths to save very little money.”

It seems that since its January 1 effective date, the estimate is that plastic bag use has been reduced by 50%.  I expect there will be some sort of counter-revolution.

Pilot Program – Sheraton Seattle

The Sheraton in Seattle was running a pilot program last week. It was characterized as “going green”. The deal was that if you voluntarily forgo housekeeping service for one day, you will receive a $5 voucher for the restaurant. The vouchers can also be traded in for Starwood Hotel points.

I gave this serious thought. Here’s what went through my brain:

1. If they are trying something, I should try it. Points for trying new things.

2. I already skip having the linens changed. I can hang up my towels and reuse them like a normal person.  And it’s not like I ever make my bed at home.

3. I wonder what the housekeepers think..less work for them or less tips?

Then the lightbulb went on – could this be an excuse to reduce staff?

Hm. Well, I tried it. I left the card on my door the next morning, asking housekeeping to skip me. When I came back to my room that night, housekeeping had clearly been there. I was very glad that I had left a couple of singles on the dresser so that I wouldn’t spend them.

I left the card on the door. The next morning, the card was on the floor by the door along with the $5 voucher. Housekeeping did not go to my room that day.

Now. I don’t remember the next sequence of events, but I meant for housekeeping to come the third day, and they didn’t. I was left a voucher. I called down at 5pm to ask about it. The guy on the phone said that if I wanted my room cleaned, they would send someone by that night. I finally figured out that the card was to be left on the door the night before the No Service day, as opposed to the day of. And I had received a second voucher. No one came by that night.

I quit fooling around.

The primary problem is that I didn’t necessarily know the night before whether I wanted housekeeping service or not. But the more I think about this, the more it seems about staffing and the less it seems about “going green”.

If I am already skipping the linen change and skipping the fresh towels, what’s left but the electricity of running the vacuum cleaner? Staff time. Why would I have to decide the night before? So they can tell people not to bother coming in to work? And is the Sheraton thinking of nickel and diming on the “extra” costs, like the airlines? (Inasmuch as they charged me $10.95 per day for Internet, I would not be surprised.)

I don’t think I approve.

The Water Bottle Problem

I like to carry around a bottle of water.  Not very eco-friendly.  I’ve been looking at the new stuff on the market, but none of them fit my personal requirements.  Like diswasher safeThen I found this one.  Rubbermaid calls it the “Chug Bottle”.  At CVS or something.  I bought six of them.

I am not ready to call this a confirmed success, but I am pretty happy so far.  It is a 20 ounce bottle.  I tend to screw the lid off as opposed to drinking from the pop up cap, mostly because I am afraid of leaving the cap loose and spilling water all over the place.  I toss them on the bed and in the car and stuff

I only put water in them, so I don’t wash them every day.  But I could, because they appear to be durable enough.  We have water coolers at home and at the office, but I am a snob and don’t feel like the water coolers are quite cold enough. These can take ice. I prefer to fill them up and put them in the refrigerator. The only trouble is how to tell whose bottle is whose.  I think I saw them in different colors.  Must buy more.

Stupid Eco Friendly Stuff

Dear Aquafina:

While I admire your corporate commitment to minimizing the carbon footprint of my bottled water habit, I must say that your new bottles suck.
I bought a case of 16 ounce bottles in the new packaging and am now about halfway through it.  In opening all but one of the bottles, I have spilled water all over the place.  One needs a firm grasp on the body of the bottle in order to break the seal in the cap of the plastic.  That grasp collapses the “eco-friendly packaging” and the water squeezes out.
That’s just poor engineering.  Respectfully, I’m going back to Ice Mountain.