Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Planet in Peril

This show on CNN was amazing, and of course, frightening. Not to keep posting just to post URL's, but their website for the show is a site that one could spend a lot of time on.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Help plant a billion trees in 2008

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a major worldwide tree planting campaign. Under the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign, people, communities, business and industry, civil society organizations and governments are encouraged to enter tree planting pledges online with the objective of planting at least one billion trees worldwide each year.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I haven't had a chance to check this website out yet but it seems like a really good resource for us Connecticut people.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On-Demand Water Heater

These are all the rage these days. I guess they have been around in Europe for a long time (we Americans are a little behind the times in many facets of Earth-friendly living it seems), and so we bought one. With the planned solar photovoltaic (PV) system, we went with an electric model made by American Tankless.

These are kind of hard to research I found, and most of the information you will find at this point will be on the manufacturer's websites, which of course all boast that their model is the best. I bought the American Tankless one because it came with a lifetime warranty. Who knows if this one is any better than the next one. Home Depot and Lowe's are pretty much useless sources of information, and last I checked only Lowe's carried a model in stock and it was a natural gas model.

Anyway, These come in oil, gas/propane, and electric models. The basic gist is that this is a little wall-hung unit that is never running or maintaining a vat of water at a certain temperature. You open a hot water faucet, it turns on. You close the faucet, it turns off. Very nice. With an electric model like mine, it consumes no electricity, ever, unless you turn on the hot water. That is pretty sweet. When it does turn on, it requires a 125 amp breaker (your house needs to be juiced up to run one of these an electric oven or electric heat), but even without the solar panels installed yet, the water heater only raised our electric bill maybe $10-$15/month (and is 98.5% efficient). Admittedly, there are only two people showering in our household, but considering at $10/month, that's only $120 bucks a year to run the thing. I'm guessing a standard tank-style electric water heater uses a lot more electricity than that. On-demand models do cost more than a tank heater, but since water is never sitting in them, they should last longer.

The big selling point of on-demand hot water heaters are that they don't run except when you need them to. When you are off at work all day, there is no quantity of water having its temperature maintained. This saves electricity if you have an electric model, and obviously oil or gas if you have those models. The oil or gas models can typically vent right out a wall as well, and don't need to tie into the chimney. Electric ones could even be (and often are) installed under a sink or in a closet behind the shower... Doing this makes the heated water have less distance to travel to the place it is needed, and thus retaining more of its heat.

Ours is installed in the basement and is only pushing water up to the first floor right now. I'm guessing once we renovate the second floor, we may install a second on-demand heater upstairs.

I should note, this little thing is ONLY used for domestic hot water. Not for heating the house. I should also note that this type of water heater can be installed in-line with a solar thermal or geothermal system, so that those systems pre-heat the water before it gets to the electric water heater. If the pre-heated water is hot enough already, the water heater won't even turn on. If it needs to come up a couple degrees, the water heater will kick on as the water travels through it. I would imagine a solar thermal system will be added to our arrangement sometime in the future. Gotta get the solar PV system up and running first. More on that soon. It shouldn't be long now.

Green is the new black

Not to get all morbid or anything, but there was an interesting article on a couple months ago (yes, I did forget to publish this post) about natural burials. I guess if one chooses to be buried, unless they plan on being exhumed one day and having their coffin raided for the untold riches within like an Egyptian tomb, why not go with a biodegradable coffin? Or maybe toilet paper mummification? Forget cremation, think of the garden that could grow in that cemetary!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Let's get a plastic recycling movement going

Do you live or work in or around Middletown, CT? If so, let's get a little campaign going here. I actually don't live anywhere near there but I've given up on my town (Waterford) to do anything more advanced than they are for recycling plastics. I've posted about this before and a reader of this blog (woohoo, I have one!!!) contacted me about wanting to get something going at the recycling center in her town. I have heard Middletown has been making advances and I know that Wesleyan University has great recycling and sustainability initiatives. It would be wonderful if something... ANYTHING could be done here in CT. I didn't know about the programs in New Haven and Manchester that she mentions but I am definitely going to find out more. I've dropped off a full carload at my uncle's house in Massachusetts before, but that is really far away and a hassle for him.

Anyway, here is an email that Elisabeth Holder sent to Kim O'Rourke, the Recycling Coordinator of Middletown, CT. If anyone else is interested in joining this effort, let me know and we can see what we can get going. I have another friend in Middletown that has contacted Ms. O'Rourke about this before as well, and if enough people get involved maybe we can get some changes made. The Middletown facility has lots of room for extra containers...

Dear Ms. O'Rourke,

I have been watching for the past decade or so as the Middletown recycling program has developed and I am very pleased with the diversity of options that is available. The curbside pickup is great because it recycles so many types of paper and cardboard, as well as being convenient. I have taken items to the swap shack for re-use and regularly bring quantities of cardboard and styrofoam to the landfill. However, I am concerned that there is nowhere to recycle plastics #3-7. Would it be possible to create some bins at the landfill as a pilot program and see what happens? I have heard that Manchester and New Haven recycle all these plastics. Occasionally I take plastics to my friends' bins in New Haven, but I feel a bit guilty about doing this. There must be some way for Middletown to do this more advanced recycling, too...

I would appreciate knowing what the drawbacks are and how they might be overcome. Thank you for your time and attention.

Elisabeth Holder
29 Long Lane
(Earth Science Teacher)