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.