Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My contribution to Earth Day

I'm not actually going to do any event for Earth Day. There are some neighborhood cleanups going on, but I am so swamped I don't have the time to spare. Instead, I want to talk about the things I am actively trying to do everyday to help save the environment.

1) Reusable grocery bags. Seriously, this is the easiest one for everyone to participate in. It does take some initial investment in the bags (unless you also have a wonderful mother who sews) but once you start using them, there is no going back to plastic. I bought mine at Resusable Bags.com. I love this set because it can hold a fully loaded grocery cart. If you have trouble remembering to bring them, when you write out your grocery list, write "bring bags" on the top of the list. Soon you won't need to write it down to remember.

2) Biking to work. It's easy for me to complete this one because I only live a mile from work in a small town. But I bike everyday, all year round (even in several feet of snow). I understand this isn't for everyone, but it's a small source of pride for me knowing I am not driving a car in those circumstances.

3) Buying local and organic. I can't always afford to follow this one, but when the price is within reason (my budget) I chose local and/or organic. Since we have such a short growing season here, it is hard to buy local fruits and veggies year-round. There is an orchard nearby we frequent towards the end of the summer and I have a small garden and we freeze as much as we can to last into the winter. Once you have had a garden fresh tomato, you'll never go back to the grocery store ones again. We also try to minimize the processed food we buy.

4) Lights, TV, LED's off. When I leave the room I try to make sure I turn off the lights. (Thank you Mythbusters for showing me that it pays to turn off the lights even if it's only going to be for a second. I never used to care this much.) I can't shut down my laptop at night because I have it set up to backup all my files, but I try to make sure all the other appliances and power strips are turned off. Every little bit helps.

5) Picking up my dog's poop. Yes, when you can see your watershed and you know how many dogs there are in this small town, picking up after your dog makes a difference. Plus it can really ruin a popular trail when people don't. And if my dog hasn't gone to the bathroom, I will pick up after someone else. I will use the plastic bags I receive from non-grocery stores when I forget to bring the reusable bags.

6) Recycle. Duh.

7) Showering less. I enjoy a warm bath or good long shower as much as the next girl, but I realize it's a luxury. So, if I don't think I need to shower, I just wash up with a washcloth. It works out to about every other day for me. Hopefully my friends and coworkers haven't noticed the difference ;-)

Hmmm, I know there are more things that we do to try and reduce our footprint on the world, but I am forgetting them at the moment. So, what do you do to reduce your impact? What do you think I/we/the world should be doing?

Update - Thanks to ReBecca for this link on 50 ways to help the planet.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Climate Debate Articles

I don't have a lot of time to write a post, but I thought people might want to know about this. A journal called GeoJournal (I didn't know this one existed) has published 6 articles debating the science and effectiveness of "An Inconvenient Truth". One intro, 2 "pro," 2 "con," and one summary article. The articles are behind a firewall, but let me know if you want the articles and I can PDF them to you. Enjoy!

Monday, April 7, 2008

I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll show you the CO2 map for the US

I saw this article about the Vulcan system on the ScienceDaily news feed and thought I might share it. Normally, I don't listen to a lot of the "general news" about climate stuff coming out. I know I am better off reading the journal papers directly to remove the "Oh My We're All Gonna Die" sensationalism. But, this headline caught my eye and after reading the article, I am impressed with the article summary and the project.
Actually it wasn't so much the headline that caught my eye as it was the first line of the article- "A new, high- resolution, interactive map of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels has found that the emissions aren't all where we thought." That did catch my eye. I wondered what could be so different from what I already know about the sources of CO2 (point sources like power plants, moving things like cars, weathering of limestone, etc). This map didn't change my mind as to where I expected the most CO2 (population centers), but it was really cool to see where the CO2 blows off (and up) and the changes observed in low CO2 areas. I also have to admit, I hadn't thought about the diurnal nature of CO2 emissions, but it makes complete sense. Now for the stipulations... This map does not seem to be made from measured CO2 concetrations in the atmosphere, but from other gases monitored by the EPA; CO2 is then modeled from that data (please correct me if I misinterpreted their PPT slides). On a map this size (with this much data) there are probably errors, but I doubt they affect the major trends we see. Also be aware this data is from 2002 (How much more damage have we done since?). Older data isn't bad, it's just nice to know all the facts. Check out the animation if you're short on time.