Thursday, December 29, 2005

QUICK GREEN: Bicycle Valet at the Rose Parade

Albert Einstein - not Humberto - Biking in Pasadena: Click the Pic for More Info
Pedal Power Meets Petal Power

Humberto Cortes had long dreamed of hosting secure bike parking at major events and venues in southern California to help us move into easier non-auto mobility. This year he made his dream come true, in a small way, with the first ever Bike Valet parking at the Tournament of Roses Parade Post Parade Viewing area.

With the help of Councilmember Steve Haderlein, (and a little nudge by yours truly on TAC), the Tournament of Roses will allow Humberto to offer a secure Bicycle Valet service during the post parade float viewing; although there is a suggested donation, no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

If you are even thinking about going to the post parade events, consider using the Bike Valet. If it is well received it can be expanded and will return next year! A reminder that the Metro Gold Line goes to within about a mile and a half of the valet parking, and the parade, so bike access is available from everywhere in SoCal. In any case, details are at the bottom of this T of R page.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

IDEA: Politics Matters

It's time.

You've been doing a lot of little green things for a while now, but lately you've have begun to wonder if its time to do something bigger.

Easy, but bigger.

There is a one-time change you can make that has the potential to affect how politicians from both parties deal with green issues. And its super simple to do.

I will not suggest that deciding to make this change is easy. The physical acts required to do this are nothing at all for most people, but getting to the point where we can act may still require overcoming years of investment in cherished stereotypes and self-image.

Here it is: Change your voter registration.

It doesn't matter if you vote Republican, Democrat, Decline to State, or something else, I want to gently urge you to register Green.

The act itself is simple: In California a couple of clicks, and in a few weeks a form arrives in the mail. If you have changed your mind by then, don't sign the form. Otherwise, sign it and mail it in and you are re-registered Green.

Simple. Easy. Green.

Why register Green? The California Green Party website says it best:

  • Registering Green is a way of 'voting' for the kind of world you want. Join a party which stands for your values, instead of one that is the 'lesser of evils' .
  • Registering Green makes a clear and effective political statement. The more people who register Green, the stronger the Green Party will be, and the more all parties will take green issues and green voters seriously.
  • Registering Green does not limit your voting options in the general election. Since you can vote for any candidate, choosing a party is really about what you believe in.

For all that, there are often decades of personal and family identification with a political party which may make it very hard to step away from your current registration. And of course there is the often strong sense of futility about registering in a third party -- one that is not currently one of the big winners in a national election.

But the interesting thing about registration, as noted, it does not affect who you can vote for: I Registered with a major party when I turned 18, but I pretty much never voted for any of that party's candidates based on simple party affiliation after that first election. It took 26 years for me to realize that my registration inertia gave comfort and support to candidates I would never support.

When I looked at the opposition party, I remembered why I had not bothered to switch previously. Although some of their candidates had personally impressed me, and I had voted for them enthusiastically, when I looked at the party platform I was hard pressed to see any real or effective effort to tackle issues that were important to me. Especially greenie issues.

Then I looked at the 10 Key Values of the the Green Party, and realized that they aptly described, in direct language and without the usual politician-speak, many of the things that I thought needed to be done.

The more I looked at the 10 Key Values, the more I realized the Green Party platform most perfectly encapsulated the hopeful-but-worried-and-frustrated view of politics I had begun to have.

So I re-registered as a Green.

Now I realized even as I registered that I was not interested in voting for some of the Green candidates, based on their personal qualifications or approach to governing. Others I have worked to elect and voted for when it seemed right.

But I feel that way about Democrat and Republican candidates too.

And especially in non-partisan local races I have been known to vote all over the unspoken party line to put a good candidate in office. But by leaving my registration in the back pocket of one major party or another, I was undercutting my own position as an advocate for sane, sustainable, human-centered, green governmental policies.

In California, many voters register without a party, as Decline to State. They often can't vote in a primary other than for their registered party, but they can vote for anyone and everything else -- every blessed proposition and every office.

But Decline to State suggests either an overwhelming interest in personal privacy or a non-specific disillusion with the two major parties, upon which no one can easily act. It does not say "I support stronger attention to personal responsibility and a greener, sustainable way of living." And that, I realized, was something the mainstream parties needed to hear.

Register Green -- Vote as You Will

The act of registration is a small step that has more import even than voting. By registering with one of the two major parties one gives the impression that a world that is a little more left or a little more right is okay; by registering Green you come down strongly on the side of diversity, personal freedom and a sustainable future, not left or right. Conservatives for conservation; progressives for progress; as Greens (capital G) both groups share the vision.

Consider it.

Register Green; vote your conscience.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

QUICK GREEN: Starving the Electricity Gluttons In Your Home

If you don't have 100% Green Power or your own solar cells for electricity, there are some surprising electricity eaters in your home that can really add up to a lot of energy usage and increasing your negative impact on the planet. Toning down use of these appliances might save you some cash, and reduce your "brown" footprint.

Everybody knows about Air Conditioning and that power drain -- but did you realize that there are some other major power gluttons lurking?

(Some of this discussion might not apply to a house with 100% Green Power -- if you have solar cells running your electric dryer, then you avoid the fossil fuels entirely. Huzzah!)

HOT HOT HOT: Coffee Maker / Water Heater / Dryer

An electric coffee maker uses a tremendous amount of electricity. The heating element to heat the water draws heavily, but so does the electric hotplate built into the thing, which may run (even in an "auto off" coffeemaker) for several hours.

Our pretty plain Mr. Coffee coffee maker is rated at 900 watts. If it runs for 2 hours, that's 1,800 watt hours, or 1.8 kWh (kilowatt hour) of power. Since the whole house uses between 12-14 kWh in a 24 hour period, you can see how that adds up. Thirty days of two hours of coffee maker use per day, on average, adds up to 54 kWh, enough electricity to run our entire home for four days!

The high-juice draw is true of any heating function performed by electricity. Stove, space heater, water heater, clothes dryer, hair dryer, oven -- even microwave ovens draw tremendous wattage for the time they are in use.

In addition, electrical heat is terribly inefficient in terms of resources these days. Once upon a time, the "Gold Medallion All Electric Home" was touted as the latest and greatest, but that was before we realized we needed to get the most efficiency out of every scrap of fossil fuel.

NOT NOT NOT: Thermal Inefficiency

Fire is still more thermally efficient for heating than overloading an electrical wire to make it glow to produce heat. In addition, a gas dryer and water heater use the energy in the gas directly to make heat, electrical devices use gas at a power plant to make heat, which is then used to generate electricity, which is then used to make heat again -- each step in the process loses efficiency and wastes the available energy.

So, if you can afford it, and already have 100% Green Power or are on Solar or Wind at home, electricity is a fine choice. But if, like most people, you can't afford to waste energy due to the cost, or don't want to leave a dead brown planet for your children, then it is an Easy Green thing to do to monitor, limit, and maybe even eliminate some of these electrical uses in your home.

Now where did I put that non-electric drip coffee maker?

Monday, December 05, 2005

NEWS: Mixed Recycling After the Truck Comes

Here is a great LA Times article that describes how a "clean MRF" is processed; you may recall from the Great Recycle Treatise that a clean MRF has the advantage of bringing recycling issues -- and ultimately waste creation issues -- to mind daily.

And don't forget: the simple act of putting recycle trash cans out in your house -- like the $6 basic Rubbermaid recycle bin above -- can greatly increase the amount of stuff that goes into your own recycling. Anywhere you have a "trash" can should also have a recycle bin.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

IDEA: Give Stuff Away, Get Free Stuff You Need, Save the Planet!

Although Buy Nothing Day is a noble effort to remind ourselves that rampant consumerism is not a greenie virtue, sometimes a person just needs stuff. Here's one green way to acquire stuff that you might have bought new -- and its all free. Check out .

Similarly, if you have stuff you don't want, this is a great way to get it off your hands without sending it to a landfill. Sometimes folks will even pick up items that would cost a great deal to have hauled off!

Freecycle is a community of local members who list things they no longer want or need. If someone on the list has a use for the item, a pickup is arranged. Over the last six months I have seen everything from baby clothes to hot tubs, galvanized iron poles to firewood, lawnmowers and lawn chairs, rose bushes and expensive bed frames all in the Freecycle(tm) network.

Freecycle (tm) puts the REUSE component of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle into play!

From the gifter's perspective its a great way to avoid throwing away perfectly good items, and to get someone to take the item off your hands.

The main freecycle web page,, can put you in touch with any one of over 3,200 local local freecycle lists world wide. The lists are hosted on Yahoogroups, and other than joining yahoogroups for free, there is no cost or membership requirement.

I happen to be the lead moderator of the San Gabriel Valley Freecycle list, about 900 members strong, covering from about Pasadena west to about Glendora, as far south as Whittier and El Monte. LAFreecycle has some 7,000 members, and covers a huge segment of the city of Los Angeles. There are local Freecycle lists for Burbank/Glendale, South Pasadena (very small, but growing) and more.

In addition to keeping tons of trash out of landfills, Freecycle participation tends to build community; the no-strings gifting of useful items can be quite rewarding, and one often establishes neighbor to neighbor relationships.

The rules consist of three major caveats:

1. Keep it Free & Legal for all ages. No money or trading is allowed, ever. The point is to keep it free. If you want to buy or sell something online, there is eBay and craigslist. Likewise, things with age restrictions (alcohol, firearms, etc) are not appropriate, nor would, say, samples of prescription drugs be allowed. Other than that, the only universal rule is have fun and be nice.

2. No politics.

3. No spam.

Different regional groups may have the occaisional different local rule. For example, SGVFreecycle allows pet OFFERS, but not pets WANTED; pet wanteds are referred to pet rescue websites. Some sites have no restrictions on pets, some do not allow pet posts at all. Most Freecycle groups ask that you begin participation by posting an OFFER, but stringent adherence varies. Be sure to read the "Welcome" file from any group you join.

Also, many groups do not allow wanteds for things that will be resold. SGV Freecycle allows them, but requires the intent to resell be stated up front, in the wanted post. Since the giver gets to choose, often from several people, they do not have to give to resellers if they choose not too.

Started by Deron Beal in Arizona, the Freecycle(tm) network has mushroomed to nearly 1.8 Million members worldwide!

Still not sure how it all works? Click the picture at left for an amusing little animation explaining the whole thing. It's free too!

With the winter holidays now nearly upon us, and the inevitable "winter cleaning" just before and just after all that gift giving and new year's resolutioning, this would be a great time to join your local group and help save resources.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

QUICK GREEN: Buy Nothing and Save!

Here's a quick greenie idea: Buy Nothing.

In the United States, the Friday after Thanksgiving is a traditional shopping orgy -- and so it has been adopted by a group of folks calling themselves "culture jammers" as Buy Nothing Day.

This year, Buy Nothing Day is November 25, and is recognized internationally.

Now there is always a lot of talk about buying green -- green processes, green ingredients -- but it is always talk of buying. Consuming green is far better than the alternative. But in the end it is consuming, using resources. Remember the old saying "reduce, reuse, recycle?" This is the "reduce" part of the equation. Sort of a "conservation of shopping."

We Americans, even greenie Americans, use more resources than almost anybody. For an example, try one of several ecological footprint websites:

Best Foot Forward
and More . These footprinters are aproximations, but point out the consumption issue.

In the end then, on Thursday, November 25 practice one day of lowered consumption. Just one day. You can do that, right?

Buy Nothing Day

Thursday, November 10, 2005

QUICK GREEN: Ikea Has Worms!

Ikea has worms.

Earthworms, that is, and not for sale either. One of the greenest stores around, especially for a mainstream retailer, Ikea is participating in a vermicompost (worm composting) pilot project.

Seems those Ikea restaurants produce a lot of food waste, which worms love to eat and turn into a high quality fertilizer. The program is pretty amazing, with two giant composting bins on truck beds set up to collect and process Ikea food wastes! Go Ikea!

You can set up your own worm box for food waste, but that is a tale for another day. Today I want to mention that not only is Ikea low-priced, they are committed to the most sustainable green business model I have seen in a while, and it’s a whole lot less terrible to buy Ikea products than home furnishings made elsewhere.

While checking out the Worms On Wheels project, I discovered that the company claims most stores recycle 70% of their waste stream, with an official goal of 90%! The worm program is touted as helping the chain get those last 30 percentage points.

Ikea scores high marks on other greenie fronts, some of which are collected here:

  1. Packing material is minimized, and nearly 100% recyclable. Cardboard and marked and numbered plastics cradle that new Snortblast bookshelf. (Personal Observation.)

  2. Flat-packed products ship more efficiently, reducing fuels, etc. associated with shipping. (Ikea Website Claim)

  3. Ikea was an early seller to move away from toxic flame-retardants, often used in children’s clothes by others, but useful in many fabric items. (Environment California Website)

  4. Similarly, Ikea has stopped using certain plastics – such as PVC – which many believe is also quite toxic. (Greenpeace Website)
  5. Many Ikea products are made from wood, a sustainable and environmentally friendly resource if managed properly. Ikea does not buy wood from ""intact natural forests" unless certified as sustainably managed. (Ikea Website)
This is not an endorsement of their products, per se – and for those who want to to get away from inexpensive Swedish design, this may not be welcome news. But certainly there is less environmental damage – thus green guilt, if you have gotten to the that stage -- inflicted by an Ikea product than but most other home furnishing products.

Coming Soon:

How You Can Get Worms Too!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Vote Green: No on Prop. 80 to REALLY Support Renewable Electricity!

If you want to VOTE green this election, the only proposition that falls in that category is Prop 80 -- and the GREEN VOTE is a NO VOTE on 80.

Oh, it started out with a good idea. But Prop 80 does really bad things , even as it tries to do some good. As a result, Prop. 80 undermines green power sources!

Prop 80 will:

-- Removes your right to buy electricity from someone other than the local utility. If you want all green power -- or all nuclear for that matter -- you can't get it.

-- The 20% renewable requirement is already the law, it just moves it up from 2017 to 2010. Most utilities were going to do it by 2010 easily anyway. Turns out, in SD for example, renewable is CHEAPER!!

-- Makes it harder for individuals to put solar on their own homes. My house runs between 90-110% off solar. Under Prop. 80 that would not have been easily possible.

Again, certain re-regulation is not a bad thing, but this is a flawed proposition that sets back sustainable sourcing for electricity, so, again a GREEN VOTE is NO ON 80.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Red Tag Your Car, Part III: Getting to "Well, Ok, Maybe"

In Red Tag, Part I we realized that most of us are car addicts, that we ride in our cars without thinking about it, and that this is not a green habit. We learned a simple technique to create awareness of our mobility choices by “red tagging” our car keys. The tag reads “How?” and “Why?” so that we will ask ourselves the hard questions – and make a conscious decision: “How will I get there?” and “Why do I have to ride a car?” In Red Tag, Part II, we examined the basis for the excuses we offer ourselves -- both real and trumped up. Today, some workarounds for some of the false excuses we offer ourselves.

T he whole point of the Red Tag process is to create awareness. The Red Tag does not offer non-auto alternatives; it does not stop one from riding a car. It can create awareness, and awareness is the first step. If you are any kind of decent human being, the awareness should result, ultimately, in some action. Or maybe just a little guilt.

The problem is, guilt leads to excuses, excuses lead to rationalizations, which in turn relieve the guilt and any interest in that pesky awareness -- and thus we have simply dug the car-riding rut deeper.

Today I offer a few of the rationalizations I have tried, or seen tried, and some workarounds.

More Ways to Say "No" than "Yes" to the Car

At the outset one needs to realize that there are many ways to avoid the car in any given situation. Like the Pasadena Walks! slogan says "Walk Bike Ride" are almost always competing alternatives. So if transit turns your 30 minute commute into a 90 minute nightmare, consider driving a bike, or bike mixed with a different transit mode. The key is not to give up on a mode if it fails for a particular trip, and not to ditch all non-auto choices if one doesn't work the first time.

That reminder having been served, here are some of the most common rationalizations I have encountered in my own brain and some ways I have found to over come them. They may work for you, or they may not -- but, again, if we are willing to admit that we are car-addicted, and think about alternative, we are well on the way to recovery.

That's Too Far To Walk (Or Bike):

Remember way back in Part I, when I asked people if they would drive 1250 feet to go to the store and everyone vehemently said "no!" When I asked if they had to drive a car for trip of 2500 feet? "Nooooo!" But when I ask the same group if they would walk a half mile to the store, they will often say that that its is too far? Remember?

Well, remember too that a half mile is only about 2500 feet.

As car riders, our concept of distance is often skewed. Frequent car driver's often have trouble estimating short distances, especially in the city. A store five miles away seems almost as close as the store that is only a mile and a half away.

Why? I'm not sure, but it may have something to do with driving overhead.

See, studies have shown that for any trip under about 15 minutes on surface streets, a bike is often quicker. That is, portal-to-portal you may only be able to ride a car two or three miles in fifteen minutes (when you include the getting out of the car, the riding in traffic, parking the car, walking the quarter mile across the parking lot, etc.)

The same three mile trip on a bike will only take 5-10 minutes, as a bike does not get held up the same way in traffic as a car, and can usually park right at the door of the destination.

Funny Story: The Bike and The Sports Car

I was once riding my bike to run an errand. I pulled up beside a white car sports car, at a traffic signal. In the car was a goodlooking 30-something gentleman at the wheel, and a similarly attractive thirty-something female passenger. I looked the car and the occupants over appraisingly -- and got that testosterone-fueled look from the driver that said "Mine. Car, Girl, Mine. Haha!" When the light turned green, he peeled out a little and took off, only to be brought up at the next light. He'd done an average of about 45 MPH between lights (in a 30 MPH zone, I might add).

As he's sitting at the light, I'm pluggin' along effortlessly at 15-20 MPH on my bike. I pull up beside them at that light, which is still red. I look 'em over appraisingly, the guy pretends not to see me, the woman smiles. Light turns green. They whiz out and soon get stopped at the next light.

A moment later, I glide up and we site together at that light too. I'm smiling now, and neither of them want to see me.

This goes on for nearly three miles. We left a spot about 50 yards from my house at the same time, and we got to my errand destination at exactly the same time. I got a little exercise and didn't burn any fossil fuels. They guy with his manhood in the gas tank got embarrassed.

It's Still Too Far

If you grocery- shop 15 miles from home, then its probably too far to walk, and even transit combined with walking would be a pain, and not at all an Easy Green thing to do. One can bike 15 miles pretty easily, but my personal comfort level is about 10 miles (each way), and then mostly when I have been biking a lot of shorter errands during the preceding weeks. So, yes, 10 or 15 miles is probably too far.

Which is exactly the point. One of the keys to reduced auto dependence is "re-localization." Now this term can mean a lot of rigorous-green things to some seriously green people, but for our purposes, let's keep it easy: Shop nearer to home. (For that matter, work and play there more too.)

The odds are pretty fair that you are shopping at a grocery market that was near to you at a prior residence but is still on your way to work, mostly, so you keep shopping there. Or it is on your way home from work, regardless, and is a store you like, but it is pretty far away.

Of course, not every town has everything you need within five miles like, oh, say, Pasadena. But there is a lot more nearby than we often realize.

And its not just shopping. Doctors, dentists, shopping malls, downtowns, our jobs, schools, recreation and more all tend to be more than five miles from home if we are auto dependent. We just don't see things that are right around the corner, or we make the local stop part of a bigger errand so that it easier to do in the car.

Addicts: Creating Car Use

Note well that last bit: We make the local stops part of a big round of errands, or combine them with a far-away trip so they are easier to do in the car!!

Watch yourself for a couple of days. You'll see.

So: You can choose to go to a closer place and use a different mode. Even if only sometimes, its a start! And you can avoid tagging nearby errands onto a bigger car trip. The interesting thing about this is we often discover new destinations that let us make the entire trip closer to home.

I Don't Have the Time

Closely related to "it's too far" is "I don't have the time." First, see point one: For a round trip that would be under 15 minutes in a car, the bike is probably faster. Second, by re-localizing where we do some of our business, we do have the time to make the shorter trip in a non-auto mode.

My favorite story in this respect is the person who told me that they would, if they only could, walk or bike to the market but then they wouldn't have time to take the car to the gym and stop at the market on the way home.

"Really," I asked. "What kind of work out do you do?"

"Oh, a light cardio; stationary bike, stairmaster, some light weights for 'mommy arms' " this person said

"Oh," I said, and just let it sink in. Eventually it occurred to her -- as it just occurred to some of you -- that riding a car to the gym to use a fake bicycle made no sense at all! A real bike ride to the market and back accomplished the same two errands, and at no expense of fossil fuel!

Coming Soon:

But I have to Carry Stuff! or
Bike Trailers & Granny Carts For All!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Shameless Plug For Fundraiser / Feel Free to Skip This Post

Pasadena Walks! is a grassroots advocacy group working to improve conditions for non-auto travel in Pasadena -- and everywhere else, of course. This is a shameless plug for stuff that we sell to raise funds -- all of which sports spiffy walking and cycling reminders.

Our exclusive "Three Arrow" logo exhorts folks to "Walk, Bike, Ride / You are the answer to the traffic problem." Deliberately couched in terms of the "traffic problem" this stuff is intended to appeal to the self interest of an average driver and elected official, even as it unconsciously promotes greener thinking.

Waive your coffee mug at your co-workers; flash your bag as you cross the street; stick a magnet on your office whiteboard. Get the message out, and help us change the auto-centric world one coffee mug at a time!

to See All the Things We Have
Stick Our Special Logo On
Please Note: Pasadena Walks! is too poor to register as an official non-profit, so sorry no spiffy tax deduction if you like this stuff. But if you want to assure yourself that PW! is real, and makse real change, just google "Pasadena Walks!" in quotes, and see for yourself.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Red Tag Your Car, Part II: Excuses, Excuses

In Red Tag, Part I we realized that most of us are car addicts, that we ride in our cars without thinking about it, and that this is not a green habit. We learned a simple technique to create awareness of our mobility choices by “red tagging” our car keys. The tag reads “How?” and “Why?” so that we will ask ourselves the hard questions – and make a conscious decision: “How will I get there?” and “Why do I have to ride a car?” Today we will deal, generally with the rationalizations, justifications and sometimes false mandate’s we give ourselves to make our own car riding “necessary” and thereby okay.

And so we ask "how shall I get there? Could I take the bus? Walk? Ride a bike?" If you have asked yourself this question – actually asked it instead of just thoughtlessly groped for the car keys – you may have answered yourself already with the easy answer.

“I have to ride a car.”

You may even have added the temporary rationalization “this time. Next time I’ll walk/bike/ride transit.” You may even have already supplied the answer to the next question (“Why?”) as part of the rationalization. “this time I have to ride a car because my-work-is-too-far-I-don’t-have-time-today-I-have-to-wear-a-suit-I-don’t-have-a-bike-I-would-be-afraid-to-ride-a-bike-it-would-be-too-dangerous,” or some variation.

Hang on, there’s help.

When A Lame Excuse Is, and Isn’t

Sometimes we really don’t have an immediate viable alternative to riding a car. Sometimes, the only solution is long term, but sometimes, really truly, there is no good – or at least acceptable -- alternative, short or long term. So get out the car. Don’t sweat it. Just by making a conscious, informed choice to drive a car you (1) will cut down on driving, even if it is the reduction that has now become unconscious, and (2) understand that you are doing more already by simple awareness than most people car addicted people.

That having been said, most of our “reasons why” fall into one of two categories: Laziness, (simple and complex) and Necessity (likewise, simple and complex).

Simple Laziness

Simple laziness is nothing more or less than its name implies. “I’m too tired to bike.” “It feels like too much work to take the train.” Even once you are serious about overcoming the lame excuses, simple laziness will rear its head.

Again, that’s ok. No need to feel defensive. We all have tired mornings; we all just aren’t up to public transit some days. This is not a lame excuse, unless it is chronic, or is actually Complex Laziness in disguise. (And, wonder of wonders, simple laziness tends to fade as we get more incidental exercise because we are car-riding less!)

Complex Laziness

What I call Complex Laziness is the comforting thought that “I would ride a bike, but I don’t have one,” or “the tires are probably flat and the seat is dusty.” Or “I would take the light rail, but since I have never taken the light rail before it is too daunting to think about doing it for the first time.” And of course “I would walk, but I don’t have enough time.”

Complex laziness depends on the extra steps necessary before we can easily make spontaneous a non-auto choice. Buying the bike, getting an old bike ready to ride, or trying out the light rail on a weekend for a trip that does not have immediate time constraints, for example.

Look at it this way: If you are an average car-culture addict, and you handled your car this way, you’d feel pretty foolish. “Oh, I would ride a car, but I’ve never gotten a license; besides, the tires are probably flat and I hate buying gas.” “I would take an auto, but I have never looked at the road map for my new town, so I might get lost.”

Complex Laziness is pernicious, because it requires something more of us at the outset than simple awareness. We have to clean up that old bike, and practice on it on the weekend. We have to find the online transit map, and spend a little extra time figuring out something new, the first time. We may even have to find new places to go for errands and entertainment that we could walk, bike or ride to, an especially daunting task if we have strong patterns and habits already.

But it can be overcome!

Complex (False) Necessity and Car Riding

In addition to the two degrees of laziness, the next most common excuse we provide ourselves is “necessity.”

“I have to take a car, because it is too far.” “I have to take a car, because I have to carry things with me.” “I have to take a car because I have little kids.” “I have to take a car because any other way takes too long.”

Again, Simple Necessity is like Simple Laziness. It is what it is. There are times when, if the trip is to be made at all, it must be made riding in a car. So go already! And check back here later on to find some long term, life and community changing ways to remove that necessity. (For example, to assuage some of the guilt you may be feeling, consider getting a small electric car for non-freeway trips. But that’s a long term solution, not so much a red tag quickie.)

Complex Necessity is also like its lazy cousin: The necessity is often created by the way we have ordered our lifestyle, and the choices we have made already from the depths of our thoughtless car riding and addiction. There may be an extra step involved that requires a small change to remove the necessity.

Some examples: You work two miles from home, but bring a lot of work home most nights, so feel that you need a car to transport you and the box of paperwork efficiently. Well, you and I both know that often enough the papers come home but nothing is done on them. Resolve and plan to leave everything at work on Wednesday and walk the two miles on Thursday. Just one time.

Now this also means you will have to leave about 15 minutes per mile earlier for work. But you can do this once, right? Having done it once, especially on a day with fewer time constraints or on which you leave extra early (just in case) you can be comfortable doing it regularly.

Not everyday, just more regularly.

Another example of the extra step is to add a $100 bike trailer to your bike. I have used one to pull kids, but now use the bike trailer to go grocery shopping. Eight or nine paper grocery bags pull pretty comfortably in the trailer. With the trailer, I have removed the “necessity” of firing up a six-cylinder auto and running it the two (most polluting) miles to the store for my organic produce.

The Hardest Part

The hardest part about overcoming Complex Laziness and Complex Necessity is that it requires a more than a spontaneous effort; it needs a little planning, a conscious and acknowledged commitment to changing mobility modes, at least some of the time.

That’s where the red tag comes in: First, it puts a spanner in the works of the automatic act of riding a car. Second, it provides a moment to reflect on the mode choice and make it a choice. But third, it allows a pause where the realization that one is indulging in Complex Laziness or Complex Necessity can sink in, and perhaps result in a little planning for the next trip or for a test run over the weekend.


Simple Fixes for Specific Complex Excuses

(Got an impediment to non-auto mobility? Want a solution? Drop me a comment or email me at with your situation and I will do my best to work around it for you.)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

QUICK GREEN: Kill Your Gas Mower

"An older gas-powered lawn mower pollutes as much in one year of typical use as a new car driven more than 86,000 miles,” according to the South Coast AQMD.

Egad! Don't even get me started on gas powered string trimmers.

Using an electric mower eliminates the majority of that pollution. While it is true that electricity might be generated from fossil fuels, and thus create some pollution, it is both less pollution and better pollution. That is, it is easier to apply new, cleaner technology to one smokestack than three million lawnmowers, and even a coal-fired power plant is cleaner power for the job than a small internal combustion engine.

In addition, if you have solar cells or sign up for "Green Power" in jurisdictions that offer it, you have effectively eliminated three month's worth of car exhaust from that ol' smoker.

Amazon and Home Depot, among others, sells a number of corded and cordless electrics, such as the Black & Decker model to the right.

In some jurisdictions you can even turn your ol' smoker in to the local Air Pollution district and get a $400 cordless electric for just $100. The beauty given away in SoCal is also shockingly quiet, thus eliminating another environmental degradation not frequently mentioned, noise.

Alas, the 2005 program in SoCal is oversubscribed, but watch for the 2006 giveaway times.

We really love our cordless AQMD provided Neutron (tm) mower, do not miss the ol' smoker (or its roar!) and think it is worth every penny of the $400 it would set you back bought from the manufacturer.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

IDEA: Red Tag Your Car

We all know its true and yet we rarely admit it: The automobile habit is not a green thing. And there is no quick, easy way to change that habit. But as part of the education program at Pasadena Walks! we have developed our "Red Tag Your Car" program to help us car-addicts to at least begin to recognize the issue.

Car Riding Is Unhealthy

We all understand that automobiles create air pollution. Some companies have even worked out a process by which you can assuage any guilt over fouling the air. See greenlagirl's recent rundown on Car Pollution Offset programs.

But there are other issues with cars -- many many issues with cars -- each of which could warrant its own discussion. Instead, here is a list:
  1. Obesity Epidemic. This is really a poor nutrition and lack of exercise problem. For a compelling data set, have a look at this shocking CDC power point or PDF. More walking instead of car riding provides extra accidental exercise.
  2. Community Isolation. Driving from place to place removes one from contact with neighbors and the community.
  3. Children Suffer. Kids who are carried in a car everywhere don't understand the spatial relationships of their own neighborhoods, or how things are interconnected. This lack of understanding translates into their school work, as well as creating adults who do not understand how their own community is interconnected. This is a shocking consequence of car addiction, and is well documented.
  4. Noise. Internal combustion engines and autos in general make a hell of a lot of noise. Want proof? Get up super early -- anytime from say 3:00 am to 5:00 am or so -- in any major city. Listen to the silence. Now listen for the roar of the river of cars even now flowing down the freeway. How many miles away are those cars? Wow.
  5. Cars Reduce Property Value. Its true: High auto traffic means lower property values. Kids can't play in their yards, or think they can't. Folks don't like to walk on the street as the roar of cars flows by.
  6. Traffic Problems. The only way to have fewer cars on the road interfering with those times when we really, truly must drive a car is to (drum roll) put fewer cars on the road. That means you. No, building more, wider, faster roads won't fix it; in a nutshell, roads are trip-attractors. Extra capacity encourages more people to drive. More driving makes people fat and unhealthy, plus adds to problems 1-5 above.

Enough Already! I Can't Quit Using A Car.

Let's assume, for now, that driving a car is sometimes, maybe even frequently, required. Is there anything we can do about the rest of the time? Anything easy that is?

Yes there is. But it starts with recognizing that we -- that you -- have an addiction.

That's right, you. Even if you think you are pretty green already, the odds are high that you have a car addiction, and that you, like most of us, feed it constantly like the unconscious chain-smoker.

One model of addictive behavior is the unconscious, repetitive act, which may well be detrimental yet which continues unabated, cloaked in lack of awareness or ornate rationalizations.


And really, when was the last time you went somewhere with friends, and didn't reflexively reach for the ol' car keys? When was the last time you said "Hey gang! How shall we get there?" Try it. Bet the rest of your group looks at you with a complete lack of understanding. It will never have occurred to most of them to ask. "Why," someone will say "is your car dead?"

Try it. I'll wait.

Before You Drive, THIMK.

Glad to see you're back. See what I mean?

My grandfather had an old gag poster over his work bench that said "Before You Louse It Up, THIMK!" Hah hah. But it can work for the car addict as well. Remember, it is often the unconscious repetition of a self-destructive behavior that creates the addiction element. Pasadena Walks! uses the "Red Tag" process to help remove the lack of thought that goes into our driving habits.

Now if you were standing here with me, I would hand you one of these cool Red Tags. If you want, you can click the one here and print the picture, but a real red tag is cooler. If you want, email me with your mailing address and I'll send the first 25 or so folks one. But they are available at an office supply store. These are from Staples, although they are not in their on line catalog.

Anyway, start with the Red Tag, and on one side, in block letters, print the word "HOW?" On the other side, print the word "WHY? " Now, attach the tag to your keys. Hey, that's not so hard, and already you're greener!

No, really.

See, when next you pick up your car keys, ask yourself the question "How can I get there?" Just asking the question is a big

step. Make it explicit, though, ask out loud. If you are alone the foolishness of talking to yourself may cause a longer pause for reflection. If you are with folks, they will assume that you are asking them (and you are, really).

Walk, Bike, Ride

Could we walk to where we are going? Ride a bike? Take a shuttle or light rail or commuter rail or even (shudder) a big urban bus? The answer will usually be "Yes, but . . . ."

It's the "but" that is killing us. "Yes, but it is too far." "Yes, but I don't have time to bike." "Yes, but my clothes will get messed up." "Yes, but I don't feel safe." Which brings us to the next question and the other side of the tag: "Why?"

Why do you have to ride a car, you should ask yourself, and your friends. This gets the "Yes, but" out in the open. We acknowledge that we have "reasons." Good reasons. Really good reasons -- until we thoughtfully and carefully examine them.


Your Excuse Isn't Really As Ironclad As You Thought or

Getting to "Well, Ok, Maybe. But . . ."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

QUICK GREEN: You Can Stop Using Coal

This afternoon, stop buying electricity generated by coal, natural gas, or (shudder) nuclear fuel.

Even if you aren't able to get solar cells up on the roof this week, your electricity provider may be willing to sell you power generated by wind, solar, and small-scale hydro.

California power companies are required to have a certain amount of "green" power in their electricity mix. Accordingly, most are willing to charge you a little extra and purchase this good electricity on your behalf.

Oddly, the power usually comes in 200 kilowatt hour (kWh) blocks for about $5.00, or $0.025 per kWh. Some providers allow a 100% option that does not require "blocks" where all of your electricity is green. A typical Pasadena home uses between 800-1200 kWh per month, averaged over the year. So the extra monthly could be $20 - $30 per month. A little much, perhaps, if your budget is stretched, but an option!

Most importantly NO unacceptable fuel has been used to power your home (or electric lawnmower)!

Of course, we have solar cells on our roof, and expect to have close to a zero electric bill at the end of the year. But we have signed up for Green Power with the City of Pasadena, so if we use a little more than we produce, we are still fossil fuel free for electricity.

Go here for this bumpersticker

Solar Cells: Why Doesn't Everybody Do This?! Wow!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

JOURNAL: Car Free Weekend II

Saturday, October 15

So far so good; I need to go fill a prescription, and will trot out the bike right after the delayed Yu-Gi-Oh game with the kids and run up the hill. Its a 15 minute bike drive, a ten minute car ride. But the morning is crisp and bright, the air clean from last night's brief rain.


Oops. The wife wants to run to the store. It's all of a mile and a half away. She offers to take the baby with her, leaving the big kids and I only. I want to suggest that she can leave baby and ride her bike (which she has been able to do very little, what with being pregnant and then often having the wee-one along). But the experiment is to see how we can do without my nagging, so I opt for a baby-free couple of hours. Might she have walked with the baby in the stroller? Yes, but the immediate reaction from me is that that would keep her away an extra 45 minutes or so, and we have a lot to do here today. Bravo for the rationalization!

Perhaps Spencer (the 10-year-old) and I will take the recycling to the collection center on the tandem later.



Ooooh. The rain has begun. Intensely! So much for picking up the prescription. No tandem riding. I will put it on hold until the rain lets up.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The day begins with more Yu-Gi-Oh, intense rain, thunder and lightening. We are simply staying put for the rest of the weekend.

Carfree Weekend Score:
Car Trips Transferred to Other Modes: 0
Car Trips Avoided: 1
Car Trips / Miles: 1/1.5

Not a good test, but a low mileage weekend given the far flung nature of our families and partsof our lives.

A Change

For the future, the "Journal" type entries have mostly been moved to, which will include general observations on events like this; Easy Green will be focused more on publication style -- if not quality -- first person explorations of "Being Green, Easy."

JOURNAL: Car Free Weekend

Friday, October 14

Cars are in at sundown, off the street and shutdown. The Weekend Off begins.

I haven't told anyone this is a car free weekend; I want to see how we can do just asking ourselves how, and why.

We've no plans for Friday night, so the five of us have a lazy evening around the house.

Saturday, October 15

9:00 am

I need to get a prescription filled and plan to hop on the bike and run that errand. The pharmacy's is near my old house, but still only about three miles away. A 15 minute bike drive or a 10 minute car ride, so the bike ride does not seem onerous.

We spend the day working on the house; I plant some of the winter garden (later than I wanted, but so it goes). Garlic and shallots in today, again (our local critters dug my first seeds!). Broccoli and some root crops Sunday.

6:00 pm

I feel like a cheat, as I didn't *need* to go anywhere today, other than the pharmacy, and I got so wrapped up in other stuff around the house that I haven't gone yet. Probably won't, either, as am about to fix dinner and settle in.

8:00 pm

The weather has been turning suddenly cool, from 90F to 70F in one day, with a crisp fall breeze blowing in from the south. The forecast is for chance of rain, but it is already raining pretty hard. The yard is cluttered with rain sensitive stuff, so I scrambled in the backyard to put some of it under cover. The rain is forecast for just overnight, so I am more amused than annoyed. The solar cells will get a good cleaning, the morning will dawn bright and cool, and the low sun-angle for the next six months means we will produce at least 20% more electricity than we consume each sunny day.

The evening becomes web surfing, a family video game, mom baking a cake, dad temporizing trying not to get caught up in the 10-year-old's desire to play Yu-Gi-Oh late into the night.

But, so far, so good. No car riding!

Tomorrow: Several errands for sure.

Friday, October 14, 2005

JOURNAL: Observations on Getting There

In addition to sharing specific ideas to get easy-green based on our experiences, it is my intention to chronicle some of our efforts to be-green-without-really-trying, in the hopes that (1) others will chime in with thoughts, experiences, and ideas and, (2) maybe our mistakes will help others avoid them.

Here, in no particular order, are some projects we will touch on here in the future.

Goodnight Car

It's the weekend, and I have just posted my "Give Your Car the Weekend Off" screed. So, preachment accomplished, this weekend will be a little practice. Stay tuned to see how much rest our two cars get . . .

That Darn Lawn

I love a big green lawn -- whether to play on or as a perfect emerald frame for our 1903 "Craftsorian" home. But I've never really had one -- either as a kid, or now.

We will never spend our days manicuring a lawn. And we are not enamoured of spending hundreds of gallons of fresh water on the lawn, especially given that we are unlikely to keep it weeded and trimmed as it must be to look good. So when we moved in four years ago, we iimmediately decided that we would replace the front lawn with natives, xeriscape, or both.

We haven't really done anything but stop watering, however. And mow the weeds every few weeks.

So there it sits -- a big brown lawn cum weed patch. Did I mention an ugly weed patch?

Although finances are always in issue in a big home project, really we are frozen by indecision. We have a corner lot that is highly visible, and in fact is sometimes used as a local landmark. We want to replace the chain link fence with a wood and arroyo stone structure (mostly to prevent pedestrians cutting across the lawn) and lots of lovely low-maintenance, low water native plants.

This weekend I will mow the weeds again.

Organic Cotton ?

Well here is a product that makes sense, but we haven't found any easy way to find it -- other than serious speciality stores, mail-order and web-order. And really, that's not easy. Although I have seen organic apples in the local Ralph's and Von's, I have never seen organic cotton at Sears or even Marcy's.

Why not? It doesn't seem to be all that more expensive. 'Course the stuff is usually made into organic styles -- vaguely artsy, vaguely granola, really requiring a pony tail and a beard for a man to wear successfully.

Put this in the category of a future mini-quest. Oh, not because I care, or want to go out of my way to be that green, but having raised the question I feel I must answer it. For you, not me.


Monday, October 10, 2005

Give Your Car the Weekend Off

For a quick greenie trick, give your car the weekend off.

From sunset Friday to sunset Sunday, try not to ride your car anywhere. Instead, drive a bike to the store for coffee and the paper on Sunday, walk to the nearby park or to the movies.

Try the local circulator shuttles. Try a trip on the local light rail. You might have to find some new places to go -- there may be a movie house closer than your usual, well within walk or bike distance. But that is part of the fun, rediscovering your neighborhood.

Even if you walk three miles to the movie, remind yourself it is only for one weekend! (Wear comfortable shoes!) If you can do one weekend, you will learn enough to help you try another with better success.

No need to take a sledge-hammer to your environmentally destructive vehicle (grin). Just give it the free weekend it so richly deserves!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Recycling (Pt. III): Do it Right,
But Make It Easy

Sick of the subject of recycling? This one is short: There are three things you can do to make recycling super easy, and really efficient.

1. Buy indoor recycle trash cans. Skip the grocery bag hanging on the back door.

If you have a mixed recycle bin from your trash hauler, then you can do the same inside your house. Most office supply stores carry a standard Rubbermaid(tm) office wastebasket in lovely clean-ocean blue, replete with the recycle logo and the proclamation "We Recycle." (Older versions used to list the types of paper that were acceptable, a somewhat quaint holdover from the early days.) Or you can order three different sizes online from Recy-CAL Supply among others. The medium size unit here lists for $6.00.

We have four of these around the house -- kitchen, office/dining room, kids rooms, etc. As recyclables come to the end of life they go into the blue trash; 10-year-old Spencer has as an "as needed" chore to dump the blue trash cans into the blue-lid Super Can from the City.

Many many people I have talked to about this use the bag-on-the-door or box-in-the-kitchen approach. Others use the bin outside the door approach. All these work great if you have very little recycling.

But the door-bag gets full, and the outside bin is a hassle. As a result, one tends to subconsciously recycle less, not more.

Remember, we use a 32 gallon, tiny can for our "trash," but fill one, sometimes two 60 gallon recycle bins. Week to week, our recycle to trash ratio is between 2:1 and 4:1.

Thus, Roger's Rule of Recycling: If you are not recycling twice the volume you put in the landfill, you aren't trying at all.

Room-based recycle bins make this very easy. If we had to carry 120 gallons of recycle out to the curb cans each day, we'd give up trying!

Our tiny trash, left, and our one or two recycle cans per week.

2. Recycle The Parts You Can.

A Barbie doll box is made of cardboard (recyclable) and un-numbered plastic (not recyclable). The plastic typically pulls off pretty easy, and the cardboard is now not in the landfill. A cereal box has a plastic bag of crumbs at the end of its life (neither crumbs nor bag recycle, although crumbs compost (grin)), and a pasteboard box. Trash the plastic, recycle the box.

Amusingly, this becomes pretty automatic and does not slow things down -- except when you start to notice which things come in reusable containers and which have vast amounts of ecologically morbid plastics or excess cardboard. We have been known to run around showing each other the trash when we come across a particularly novel feat of packaging engineering using reclaimable products.

3. Cheat.

This comes in two parts:

a. Never feel guilty if you throw away one can or a scrap of paper rather than get to the bin. The habit you will develop if you do not feel resentful and pressured over recycling will eventually more than make up for the occasional misguided soda can.

b. Not sure if that paper is ok to recycle? What about that can? In mixed recycling, toss it in anyway. There are still people down there inspecting your choices, who will reject anything you have overzealously included.

The in-house bins will have the biggest impact, of course. It never ceases to amaze me how many people have four or five or more trash cans around the house, and one recycle bag. And, of course, there are lots of ways to reduce your trash without increasing recycling output. But that's a screed for another day.


Red Tag Your Car (It's Easy!)

Recycling (Pt. II): The Good Way, The Bad Way, The Hard Way

How your trash leaves your house is usually determined by city, or sometimes county, politicians, who give policy instructions to waste management authorities. Often, the details are further left to a private contractor.

All these people can have an impact on how hard -- or easy -- it is to be green when it comes to recycling. As a result, if your town doesn't use The Good Way with a little financial incentive (see below) drop me an email and we can come up with a way to change that.

As it happens, the easiset way is far from the best way.

The Hard Way: D.I.Y.

One way to be green is to Do-It-Yourself, to collect your recyclables and turn them into cash-- er reusable materials -- without any city help at all.

Mostly this falls into the catagory of Rigorous Earth Friendly Lifestyle (REFL) and while this may be fine for some, we are all about easy. Oh sure, you can collect your paper, your aluminum, your steel, your numbered plastics, your glass, etc., sort them and schlep them down to your local recycling center, but its a lot of work.

And that means for most of us that we would never get started, or would start, but eventually toss two or three trash bags of unreclaimed recyclables into the trash can. Getting the City or other jurisdiciton that handles your trash to do it for you is much easier. And of course municipal governments have a motivator to pull all the recyclables out of the trash that they can since many states (including California) require cities to reduce the amount of stuff going into landfills.

Believe it or not, once folks actually expected the D.I.Y. method to work, and cities set up dozens of recycling centers for public spirited citizens to bring their recylable stuff to. It worked okay, especially for the Truly Public Spirited and Hardcore Greenies. I even spent some time sorting glass by color as a Boy Scout at a voluntary recycle center. Some communities still do things this way.

The City of Kernville Community Recycling Center

Voluntary or D.I.Y. programs are The Hard Way, but they are certainly better than No Way. These are most often found, still, in very small or isolated communities.

Now, there are second-generation D.I.Y. centers in place where you can get cash for bottles and cans, in many major metro centers, even cities with the The Good Way in place. Why is that?

Well, Remember way-back when you could take a soda or beer bottle to the market and get a nickel for it? Still can, and it applies to all beverage containers these days.

In California its called CRV (California Refund Value); some other states mandate an amount, and it is often printed on the container.

But here's the trick -- Supermarkets tend not to handle this stuff directly. Instead, in some store parking lots, there are shipping containers converted to recycling centers.

The two coolest ones here in SoCal are automated. In one, you put the bottle or can into a hole in the side of the recycle center and it moves away on a little conveyor belt. An automated scanner scans the container and registers an amount. When you are done, it issues a reciept, no human intervention required. You cash-in the reciept inside the store where the center is located, either for $$$ or a credit on your next purchase.

The second kind is pretty much the same, except there is a human being around to dislodge the can or bottle when the machine gets jammed, or to change the barrels into which the various containers are sorted by the machine. Sometimes the human staffed centers take cans by the pound too -- but generally that is reserved for the great big industrial-quantity recycle centers.

Viewed strictly as a method for easy recycling, this "modified" D.I.Y. is not so good. It still involves extra work the other methods do not. But if you have a youngster around who can collect the cans and bottles and ride 'em over on her bike for spending money, then its a cool way to do things. And if you really need the money yourself sometime, it is also useful to know that a trash bag full of mixed cans and plastic bottles will net $3.00 to $5.00. No wonder people push shopping carts around looking for them.

The Easy Way: Mixed Stream, Mixed Messages

One kind of city recycling in current vogue is called "mixed stream" or "mixed waste." Residents just put everything into the regular trash -- recyclable cardboard, moldy macaroni, bottles, cans, greasy roast beef, and anything else that is usually thrown away. The city takes the trash to a central location where it is dumped on a conveyer belt, and a whole bunch of people with the worst job in the world pick out the good stuff to recycle.

No, really.

Next to that rotten half chicken you tossed in the dumpster, and the puke-filled paper towels from the sick kid down the street, and under the used kitty litter, there may be a perfectly recyclable soda bottle.

And it is considered by some cities a better deal to pay someone to pluck out the useable parts of this muck after its all mixed together than to force its citizens to actually think about their consumption and choose to recycle.

Unfortunately, this method is not very efficient. A perfectly good cardboard Barbie box may not be recyclable at all if it is covered in that kid's barf. And necessarily, if you are that somone picking through the rotten, stinking garbage one can't imagine that you are going to be able to pick out all the good stuff.

Admittedly, this mixed waste method is the easiest way for the average Jane to get ones cans and bottles out of the landfill. No thought required; no habit to ingrain. But as ever, The Easy Way is often not the right way, or even the best way, to get the job done.

Not only does the mixed stream process not remove as much trash from the landfill loads as other methods, it does not require people to be responsible for what they put into the trash in the first place. So consumption continues unabated, landfill filling is reduced only modestly, and most cities are left not likely to meet the state imposed reduction standards.

The Good Way: Mixed Recycle (And a Little Incentive)

As ever, there is a middle-way!

Not so easy as mixed waste, not so rigorious as D.I.Y.

In some cities, such as Pasadena, California, residents are given a special trash can for recycle goods. In Pasadena the blue-lid trash can is for ALL recyclables -- paper, metal, glass, plastic, cardboard.

Put the good stuff in one can, the real trash in the other-- simple.

No need to sort by type, or glass color. And it all goes: Metal, Paper, Numbered Plastics, Glass etc.

The blue-lidded super-cans are picked up by a special truck, and only this relatively clean, partly sorted recycle stuff goes to a special facility where a combination of machines and people sort the good stuff into types, whence it is recycled.

Still a pretty yucky job for someone. But not nearly so bad as picking the pickle jar out of the spoiled halibut and used tissues. As it happens, Pasadena also has a seperate trash can for green waste -- grass clippings, prunning, etc. All that plant material is turned into compost, and also doesn't count at the dump.

This makes it really easy to get all your recylables together. In Pasadena, however, there is an extra incentive to help folks see the value of filling that recycle bin.

Recycling is way up because the "regular" trash can is shrinking -- because that is the part you pay for, by the gallon.

Oh yeah, that's the key, see: The recycle trash cans are free, the yard waste cans are free (we have two huge ones of each) but the regular goes-to-the-landfill trash will cost ya.

Called a "Pay As You Throw" plan, the Pasadena system gives folks an economic incentive to sort as much trash as you can into the recycle bin. At our house, with a family of five, we use one of the tiny 32 Gallon trash cans, and pay just $11.00 per month for trash! Of course we fill TWO 60 gallon recycle bins, often. But that's free!

Special Value of Partial Sorting

Turns out, the mixed recycle format has an extra side benefit: People start to think about what they are throwing away, and begin to notice things about what they are consuming, how its packed and the like. Which, of course, just leads to more green thinking, bike driving, solar cells installing -- a blog -- you get the picture.

Here is a perfect illustration:

One day, at my daughter's birthday party, one of her First Grade classmates asked my Father-in-Law where to put the soda can the lad had just emptied. Grandpa had a bag of trash in his hand -- mostly-eaten cake on paper plates, dying streamers, unfinished watermelon and the like -- and so he held open the bag and told the kid to toss it in.

"No, no," the young man reportedly said. "Where's the recycle?"

When Grandpa told the story on himself later, he added the comment that when we told him that in Pasadena we recycle, he didn't realize we meant that we really recycle. And that's the point, isn't it? The habit was ingrained, the boy expected a handy place to recycle his can, and he knew that it wasn't a good to just toss it in the trash without a thought.

With the right program in place, it really is easy going green.


Recyling (Pt III): Do It Right, But Make It Easy