All that energy that could be used to work together to improve the human condition, goes to competing for hungry eyeballs.

was originally published on Meandering home

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Energy Saving – the Alaska Way

If you listen carefully you can hear some politicians murmuring about saving energy, suggesting we should ride our bikes more often, insulate our homes a bit, or unplug unused electronic equipment. Some brave public folks even go as far as invoking ideae that are anathema to consumer society, such as a slightly smaller refridgerator.

But all their solutions, even applied consequently across the population, will hardly have any discernable effect other than the sarcasm, bitterness, hypocrisy and guilt it would produce.

Let’s assume for a moment that we CAN prevent the worst consequences of climate change, the sea level rising and massive species extinction. It won’t be through petty measures. But who will take radical steps if their results are not even sure to prevent disaster and their neighbors are living like there is no tomorrow?

How can the urgency of the problem, from the perspective of the planet, be made visible? Imagine, for a second, that the price we pay for electricity is fair and is a measure for the amount of damage its generation from fossil fuels has inflicted on the environment. Now imagine this price to rise fivefold. How creative would our solutions to save energy be?

In Juneau, Alaska, a 2008 Avalanche shut down electricity generators and made the price of electricity actually increase fivefold. One resident asked for help on a website, and I browsed the advise she was given. It was amazing. This proves for once and for all what we are capable of if we understand the urgency of our problems. What follows is a compilation of the tips I found (and you can search the web for many more).

1. “Refrigerator: Unplug it and put your food outside on the porch if you have one. Spring weather in Alaska is likely to be cool enough to serve as an outdoor refrigerator. If you have a cooler, use that. If you’ve got stuff in the freezer, use it or sacrifice it. Keep your fridge and freezer 3/4 of the way full, it will work at it’s best this way. Add jugs of water if you need to do. Do not rely heavily on food that easily spoils, such as meat or eggs. Bread, apples, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, peanut butter, canned goods, dried beans or grains do not have to be refrigerated at all.”

2. “You might consider going medieval and hanging heavy fabric on the outside walls to insulate them better (rugs, blankets). At night it’s definitely worth covering the windows however you can. Even the most energy-efficient window is much less well-insulated than an adequate wall. Personally, I’d also consider whether I could move my life into a single room temporarily (maybe sleeping on a mattress in the kitchen where the fridge used to be…), making it possible to shut off the heat and power in the rest of the apartment.” This does not come from Sarah Palin.

3. Organize community meals. It was suggested people eat at their neighbor’s place, and they return the favor the next day. “It takes no more energy to cook for ten than to cook for one.”

4. Dress warm, use electric blankets instead of space heaters. Sounds logical, doesn’t it?

5. Organize alternating sleepovers. Yes, we might incidentally turn into social beings again.

6. Eat a raw diet. This has proven to be healthy and consumes, well, virtually no cooking energy.

7. “Close all of your doors. It prevents drafts from circulating. If you need to use electronics use them all in the bedroom. The ambient heat from a desktop PC is pretty good. In reverse in summer: close the windows, blinds and curtains in the morning to keep the warm air out.  Only use your oven to cook once a day and cook everything you need for the 3 meals. I do this at dinner – I cook breakfast (muffins, quick breads, etc) while dinner is cooking and they are ready for breakfast.”

8. Use LED lightblulbs. They use only 10% of the energy a CFL uses. That is, if you don’t need the heat a normal lightbulb would produce.

9. Consider cooking with your car’s engine. Apparently, there has been a cult book about this called Manifold Destiny, but truckers regularly use the heat of their engines to heat up a can of food.

10. “Keep the plug in the tub while taking a shower to save the hot water. Let the hot water warm the room. When the water is room temperature, drain it. Wasting hot water is literally energy down the drain.” Did any energy conservation hipster mention that?

11. “You can even preheat your bed by putting a cast iron (type) pot with rice/pasta that’s been heated to a boil in it between layers of newspapers/towels tucked in your bed. The rice will cook without extra energy and you’ll have a warm bed!” Did we hear this from greenpeace?

12. “Use a humidifier or if you a really cheap hang up a moist towel. Better yet don’t use the dryer and hang your clothes in doors. Moist air can hold more heat than dry air.” Did you know?

13. Wear socks, a hat, use a sleeping bag, and cuddle up together – and then turn the thermostat (the usage of a programmable thermostat can result in one of the most dramatic reductions) down a few degrees. It could be all so simple.

14. Washing. “Alternately, you could heat a pot of water on the stove or in the fireplace or on a grill and then have each person take sponge-baths with a washcloth alone with their pot of warm water. It’s what they did before water-heaters.” Where did we come from?

Energy Saving – the Alaska Way

produces heat (and light)

If you listen carefully you can hear some politicians murmuring about saving energy, suggesting we should ride our bikes more often, insulate our homes a bit, or unplug unused electronic equipment. Some brave public folks even go as far as invoking ideas that are anathema to consumer society, such as a slightly smaller refrigerator.

But all their solutions, even applied consequently across the population, will hardly have any discernable effect other than the sarcasm, bitterness, hypocrisy and guilt it would produce.


Let’s assume for a moment that we CAN prevent the worst consequences of climate change, the sea level rising and massive species extinction. It won’t be through petty measures. But who will take radical steps if their results are not even sure to prevent disaster and their neighbors are living like there is no tomorrow?

How can the urgency of the problem, from the perspective of the planet, be made visible? Imagine, for a second, that the price we pay for electricity is fair and is a measure for the amount of damage its generation from fossil fuels has inflicted on the environment. Now imagine this price to rise fivefold. How creative would our solutions to save energy be?

In Juneau, Alaska, a 2008 Avalanche shut down electricity generators and made the price of electricity actually increase fivefold. One resident asked for help on a website, and I browsed the advise she was given. It was amazing. This proves for once and for all what we are capable of if we understand the urgency of our problems. What follows is a compilation of the tips I found (and you can search the web for many more).

1. “Refrigerator: Unplug it and put your food outside on the porch if you have one. Spring weather in Alaska is likely to be cool enough to serve as an outdoor refrigerator. If you have a cooler, use that. If you’ve got stuff in the freezer, use it or sacrifice it. Keep your fridge and freezer 3/4 of the way full, it will work at it’s best this way. Add jugs of water if you need to do. Do not rely heavily on food that easily spoils, such as meat or eggs. Bread, apples, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, peanut butter, canned goods, dried beans or grains do not have to be refrigerated at all.”

2. “You might consider going medieval and hanging heavy fabric on the outside walls to insulate them better (rugs, blankets). At night it’s definitely worth covering the windows however you can. Even the most energy-efficient window is much less well-insulated than an adequate wall. Personally, I’d also consider whether I could move my life into a single room temporarily (maybe sleeping on a mattress in the kitchen where the fridge used to be…), making it possible to shut off the heat and power in the rest of the apartment.” This does not come from Sarah Palin.

3. Organize community meals. It was suggested people eat at their neighbor’s place, and they return the favor the next day. “It takes no more energy to cook for ten than to cook for one.”

4. Dress warm, use electric blankets instead of space heaters. Sounds logical, doesn’t it?

5. Organize alternating sleepovers. Yes, we might incidentally turn into social beings again.

6. Eat a raw diet. This has proven to be healthy and consumes, well, virtually no cooking energy.

7. “Close all of your doors. It prevents drafts from circulating. If you need to use electronics use them all in the bedroom. The ambient heat from a desktop PC is pretty good. In reverse in summer: close the windows, blinds and curtains in the morning to keep the warm air out.  Only use your oven to cook once a day and cook everything you need for the 3 meals. I do this at dinner – I cook breakfast (muffins, quick breads, etc) while dinner is cooking and they are ready for breakfast.”

8. Use LED lightblulbs. They use only 10% of the energy a CFL uses. That is, if you don’t need the heat a normal lightbulb would produce.

9. Consider cooking with your car’s engine. Apparently, there has been a cult book about this called Manifold Destiny, but truckers regularly use the heat of their engines to heat up a can of food.

10. “Keep the plug in the tub while taking a shower to save the hot water. Let the hot water warm the room. When the water is room temperature, drain it. Wasting hot water is literally energy down the drain.” Did any energy conservation hipster mention that?

11. “You can even preheat your bed by putting a cast iron (type) pot with rice/pasta that’s been heated to a boil in it between layers of newspapers/towels tucked in your bed. The rice will cook without extra energy and you’ll have a warm bed!” Did we hear this from greenpeace?

12. “Use a humidifier or if you a really cheap hang up a moist towel. Better yet don’t use the dryer and hang your clothes in doors. Moist air can hold more heat than dry air.” Did you know?

13. Wear socks, a hat, use a sleeping bag, and cuddle up together – and then turn the thermostat (the usage of a programmable thermostat can result in one of the most dramatic reductions) down a few degrees. It could be all so simple.

14. Washing. “Alternately, you could heat a pot of water on the stove or in the fireplace or on a grill and then have each person take sponge-baths with a washcloth alone with their pot of warm water. It’s what they did before water-heaters.” Where did we come from?

The Foodprint of Broccoli

best eaten raw to prevent cancer and save the climate

Not only Cassandra’s heirs are predicting serious disaster if mankind’s consuming power keeps growing the way it does. It is commonplace that this planet we call ours cannot keep up with the rate we are using her resources. The 21th century consumer simply uses more of the natural resources than can be replenished in time for the next generation.

Everything we do takes energy and most of that energy is provided by fossil fuels. I want to focus on one aspect that is at the core of our lives: food. In the last decades, a lot of studies have been conducted about the carbon footprint of our foodstuffs: the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted for the production, transportation, storage and preparation of one kilogram of food. A common misunderstanding is that shipping would constitute the majority of the carbon footprint, leading to the concept of “Food Miles”. As Budiansky pointed out in an opinion piece he wrote in the New York Times September 2010, the real energy guzzling takes place within households. Fridges, food processors, and driving to the supermarkt contribute more to the negative carbon balance of our daily food than storage, transportation and production (perhaps with the exception of greenhouse vegetables and tropical fruits shipped in dedicated cargo planes).

In the US, a 2008 study by researchers Christopher L. Weber and H. Scott Matthews at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, found that the final transport of food from producer to market (the ‘food miles’) accounts for only 4 per cent of the total emissions from food- But overall, this estimate increased to 11 per cent of total food-related emissions when the researchers accounted for transport

The exact numbers don’t matter much to turn people into conscious consumers. What does matter is their awareness of unsustainability and more importantly, the fact that unsustainability is not cool. What could such energy awareness look like? The average consumer will of course choose the product with the smaller footprint – given all other factors like quality, appearance, price, associations are the same. The reason is easy to understand: The smaller footprint adds value to the product, namely the infinitesimal but existing value of moral superiority of that product over the other one. I think we have to multiply this infinitesimal factor through public communication and massive awareness creation that will be strong enough to turn it into a financial incentive (because people who buy greenhouse fruits will be excluded from rotaries, for example).

Once the public awareness takes off, making energy calculations will be more respected and taken seriously. How much fossil fuel was burned to create (and transport) the fertilizer? What about the irrigation system? And how far away is the broccoli farm? What kind of insecticides were used? What about the alternative of low-pillage agriculture? What about the nitrogen balance? When we buy it and drive home with our groceries, how much diesel oil are we burning per kg of broccoli? What is the overall energy use and toxic output resulting from the production of this broccoli coral?

It is fun to make these kind of calculations and high school kids should be encouraged to do so. They will grow environmentally conscious in the process.

What is needed is a comprehensive, honest, and transparent list of greenhouse gas and toxic emissions in the overall process of producing our foodstuffs and getting them on our plates and palates.

Resources:
http://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/15516IIED.pdf
http://researcharchive.lincoln.ac.nz/dspace/bitstream/10182/248/1/aeru_rr_299.pdf

US related:
http://www.ecocentricblog.org/2010/09/14/our-energy-gulping-industrial-food-system-revealed-in-eight-bullet-points/

The Foodprint of Broccoli

best eaten raw to prevent
cancer and save the climate

Not only Cassandra’s heirs are predicting serious disaster if mankind’s consuming power keeps growing the way it does. It is commonplace that this planet we call ours cannot keep up with the rate we are using her resources. The 21th century consumer simply uses more of the natural resources than can be replenished in time for the next generation.

Everything we do takes energy and most of that energy is provided by fossil fuels. I want to focus on one aspect that is at the core of our lives: food. In the last decades, a lot of studies have been conducted about the carbon footprint of our foodstuffs: the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted for the production, transportation, storage and preparation of one kilogram of food. A common misunderstanding is that shipping would constitute the majority of the carbon footprint, leading to the concept of “Food Miles”. As Budiansky pointed out in an opinion piece he wrote in the New York Times September 2010, the real energy guzzling takes place within households. Fridges, food processors, and driving to the supermarkt contribute more to the negative carbon balance of our daily food than storage, transportation and production (perhaps with the exception of greenhouse vegetables and tropical fruits shipped in dedicated cargo planes).

In the US, a 2008 study by researchers Christopher L. Weber and H. Scott Matthews at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, found that the final transport of food from producer to market (the ‘food miles’) accounts for only 4 per cent of the total emissions from food- But overall, this estimate increased to 11 per cent of total food-related emissions when the researchers accounted for transport

The exact numbers don’t matter much to turn people into conscious consumers. What does matter is their awareness of unsustainability and more importantly, the fact that unsustainability is not cool. What could such energy awareness look like? The average consumer will of course choose the product with the smaller footprint – given all other factors like quality, appearance, price, associations are the same. The reason is easy to understand: The smaller footprint adds value to the product, namely the infinitesimal but existing value of moral superiority of that product over the other one. I think we have to multiply this infinitesimal factor through public communication and massive awareness creation that will be strong enough to turn it into a financial incentive (because people who buy greenhouse fruits will be excluded from rotaries, for example).

Once the public awareness takes off, making energy calculations will be more respected and taken seriously. How much fossil fuel was burned to create (and transport) the fertilizer? What about the irrigation system? And how far away is the broccoli farm? What kind of insecticides were used? What about the alternative of low-pillage agriculture? What about the nitrogen balance? When we buy it and drive home with our groceries, how much diesel oil are we burning per kg of broccoli? What is the overall energy use and toxic output resulting from the production of this broccoli coral?

It is fun to make these kind of calculations and high school kids should be encouraged to do so. They will grow environmentally conscious in the process.

What is needed is a comprehensive, honest, and transparent list of greenhouse gas and toxic emissions in the overall process of producing our foodstuffs and getting them on our plates and palates.

Resources:
http://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/15516IIED.pdf
http://researcharchive.lincoln.ac.nz/dspace/bitstream/10182/248/1/aeru_rr_299.pdf

US related:
http://www.ecocentricblog.org/2010/09/14/our-energy-gulping-industrial-food-system-revealed-in-eight-bullet-points/