Archive for the conservation Category

My Conscious Consumer Birthday Present: A Made in the U.S., Cradle to Cradle Gold Certified, 97% Recyclable, SteelCase Think! Desk Chair

Posted in conservation, ethical consumerism, recycling, sustainability on January 4, 2011 by theseep

Whenever holidays and birthdays come up, we all get the “what do you want?” question from family and friends, to which we respond with the obligatory, “you don’t need to get me anything”, whether we mean it or not.  As a soapbox-mounting and somewhat garrelous ecovangelist, most people I know understand that I don’t want “stuff” just for the sake of giving a gift, and while making efforts to be a conscious consumer, I now have a hard time receiving a gift without judging it from an environmental, economic, and social standpoint.  I am, of course, very grateful for any gift as it truly is “the thought that counts”, but as I’ve held my own purchases to a higher standard, I’m always even more grateful and even flattered when others recognize this and put a little more thought into a gift than that initial one.  So, I have my Amazon wishlist of some gadgets (admittedly an eco-weakness), a wind turbine, a few books and blu-ray movies for some focused shopping for things that I definitely want, and then there have been a few larger items that I’ve developed a need for.

My desk chair came with the house when I bought it 7 years ago, and is an old, overstuffed armchair-style executive chair, with cracking maroon leather, mounted atop mismatched casters and massive, squeaky springs that allow it to recline and bounce around in a seemingly random pattern which I’ve mastered over the time I’ve spent in it’s worn-out seat.  I loved the style, but could no longer stand the numb legs from the front edge of the chair, now painfully apparent from the sagging and pokey springs and flattened cushioning.  So, for my 36th birthday, I collaborated with my wife, my parents, my in-laws, and saved 2 months of my own “gadget allowance” to choose a shiny new desk chair where I will spend many future hours in front of my iMac.  I looked at the options:  Used chairs, many of them grungy or beat up, begging the question – what was the former owner’s hygiene like?  Did they ever sit in it naked?  This branch alone in the thought experiment essentially ruled out used chairs.  There are sturdy, almost regal-looking chairs to be had at Staples, Office Max, and even Ikea for less than $200, but what are they made of?  Foam and plastic.  Where and how are they made?  China and who knows.  Then I went in search of sustainable office furniture worthy of Cradle to Cradle certification and was able to find a few models that fit the bill, particularly those from Herman Miller and SteelCase.

After trying to be cheap and looking at the refurbished options for these high-end engineering marvels, I sucked it up and decided on the Think! chair from SteelCase, made in Michigan out of 97% recyclable parts, with a Cradle to Cradle Gold certification.  This chair not only is designed to be much more ergonomic, comfortable, and durable than all of the chairs found in Staples, but purchasing it makes a statement that I value good craftsmanship, that I would rather pay more to buy a quality, well-designed piece of furniture that supports our nation’s economy rather than shipping more jobs overseas (I’ll admit that I felt a slight pang of eco-guilt as well as more of a sting to my bank account as I checked the $250 leather option when ordering, both of which were immediately soothed as I slid into the comfortable, more durable, easily cleaned, and supple seat).  While the $1000 cost for this chair may seem unreasonable to some, this chair to me is an investment.  This high-quality piece of home furnishing is better built, has more adjustments and ergonomic features than the vast majority of chairs, so not only do I plan to use it for years and hopefully decades to come, it also supports the once mighty and now anemic American manufacturing industry.  This concept, in case you haven’t heard of it, is called conscious consumerism.

Over the last half century or so, our culture has developed a conditioned obliviousness that has decoupled us from the production chain, allowing the quest for corporate profit and consumer bargains to transform what was once lovingly crafted by an artisan in a neighboring town into a stamped piece of toxic plastic made by a worker making $100 a month on the other side of the world. We have been trained by psychologically based advertising and the illusion of adequate safety standards to be unconcerned with the origins or underlying costs of the products we see on the store shelves.  Say you need to buy shoes, you go to WalMart or Target, or Amazon or whatever, and you see a label that tells you where those shoes came from, who made them, how their job’s healthcare program was, if their families had enough to eat every day, and if their towns had clean drinking water and adequate sanitation.  If you looked at the $10 pair of shoes and saw a label that described the poor working conditions, the meager wages, the environmental degradation, and other negative impacts of the production of those shoes, and you saw a $20 pair of shoes with a label that shows a healthy, American worker with healthcare coverage for his/her family, and sustainably and safely produced materials that support other domestic jobs, which one would you pick?  When you buy something cheap, with throat-burning VOCs offgassing from the packaging, that’s made overseas by a less expensive and likely oppressed workforce with less regulations on toxic materials and manufacturing processes, you support that system and you discourage companies from using responsible methods and give them no reason to bring manufacturing jobs back into the U.S., why should they?  Unfortunately because of this learned and reinforced obliviousness, people will happily and obliviously buy the cheaper items while they’re complaining about the economic recession and the lack of jobs.

Conscious consumerism is the solution to this problem, a way to slow down the depletion of our resources, the pollution of our lands and waterways, and the oppression of people around the world.  Conscious consumerism means we understand that in buying something, we directly support the way in which it was made, from resource utilization, to labor practices, to toxic byproducts, packaging, transport, and each step in the chain that brings a product to us.  It means that we choose to pay for coffee or chocolate from farmers that are paid enough to feed their families instead of those who are barely paid enough to survive.  It means that we choose to a pay a little more for vegetables and meat that was grown through healthy, humane, and sustainable practices instead of cruel and antibiotic laden concentrated animal feed lots or pesticide-soaked and petroleum-based fertilized monocrops.  It means that we save up enough money to buy a quality, responsibly made piece of furniture instead of the cheap, quick, and toxic solutions offered in most stores.  This entire concept is based on personal responsibility and the simple feat of considering the impact of our individual decisions.  It is a concept that should resonate across political lines, across cultures, creeds, and languages.  Conscious consumerism means that as individuals, we recognize that each choice we make has an effect not only on our own present and well-being, but also has a definable effect on others, including our friends, our families, our community members, our country, as well as the global community.  This tenant is based on the aforementioned principle of making logical decisions utilizing as much knowledge of the problem as possible.  Avoid basing judgements and actions on unproven dogma or previous prejudices.  Use best practices, the communal knowledge base and wisdom to solve problems.  Consider the health, prosperity, and happiness of all people and the world when making even small choices.

Update:  As a bonus, I used the box to make a free and recyclable indoor play house for our son, who continues to use it after 4 months!

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Orion’s Xtracycle and Peapod Commercial

Posted in alternative fuel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, sustainability, transportation on February 13, 2010 by theseep


I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my Xtracycle over the last 3 years and it was time to figure out a mode of eco-friendly transport for Orion, so we opted to upgrade Laura’s commuter to an Xtracycle Radish model with the Peapod child carrier kit. They had a promotion that required us to make a video, submit a testimonial and some photos for almost $400 off the package!

At 7 months Orion is almost ready to take his first trip to Farmer’s Market on his new bike limousine! Of course, we’re still using biodiesel and vegetable oil for our vehicle transport, but cycling is still preferred when we can (you really pay attention to how much fuel you use when you make it yourself!).

26 Week Ultrasound Art and Treehugger.com’s Going Green Guide

Posted in conservation, ethical consumerism, sustainability on April 17, 2009 by theseep


For the latest installment of Orion’s ultrasound art, on Orion’s sustainable baby blog, I chose to completely rip off Andy Warhol’s techniques, right down to the colors! This is a pretty good 2D close-up view of his face and everything is going well so far.

In our continuing quest to have a “green baby” and with Earth Day coming up and all, I figured we could check out one of my favorite green blogs, treehugger.com, and their “Going Green Guide”. Many people aren’t sure where to start once their eco-consciousness has been raised, and the guide is a great place to start without being too overwhelming. It’s divided into many categories, so whatever subject you want to start working on, from dinner parties, to home energy, gift guides, personal care products, and of course, having babies, there is an incredible amount of information there. Right now we’re researching reusable diaper options, so stay tuned and have a great Earth Day!

If You’re Not In The “If It’s Yellow Let it Mellow” Crowd: $150 Toilet Retrofit Will Save You Thousands of Gallons of Water!

Posted in conservation, sustainability on February 8, 2009 by theseep

In the bathroom in our bedroom, Laura and I generally stick to the “If it’s yellow let is mellow, if it’s brown flush is down” mantra.  Instead of flushing the toilet, say 12-15 times a day, we only flush 4 or 5.  At 1.6 gallons per flush, just doing this on one toilet saves us over 5000 gallons per year of water.  We tend to flush the downstairs toilet regularly, as we don’t want to gross out our guests, plus for some reason that bathroom has an uncanny amplification of smells (tmi, I know).  Many people are uncomfortable with not flushing every time, especially in more public restrooms, and we’ve started to see some businesses install dual-flush toilets such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Now there is a solution for the home!  Rather than replacing your entire toilet, Brondell is releasing the “Perfect Flush” retrofit that can be installed on nearly any standard home toilet and can save about 50% of the water you would normally use if you’re an “everytime flusher.”  At $150, it’s also affordable and looks to be fairly easy to install yourself.  Although we should be seriously rethinking our water use in general, (ie: how much sense does it make to contaminate millions of gallons of water from showers, kitchens, washing machines, sinks, etc, with a few hundred gallons of blackwater?)  this is an easy and affordable first step until you can get your composting toilets and greywater systems in place!

via Gizmodo.

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, green energy, sustainability on December 10, 2008 by theseep

EcoGeek Compares CFL Incandescent and LED Lightbulbs

EcoGeek just posted this is a great and quick comparison of the light output and quality from incandescents vs. CFLs vs. LEDs, as well as discussion of efficiency.

Although we did the conversion to CFLs a few years ago, we’re on the second phase and slowly coverting to LED bulbs as the CFLs burn out. The technology has already come a long way in the last 2 years and LED bulb prices are starting to come down. At this point, if you haven’t changed out your incandescent bulbs, you might as well skip the CFLs and go straight to the LEDs! With 1/4-1/3 of the power use and 10,000-50,000 hour lifespans, LEDs are certainly the way to go.

via treehugger.com, ecogeek.com

Obama Understands Our Environmental Problem: “We can’t solve global warming because I f—ing changed light bulbs in my house.”

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability on November 16, 2008 by theseep

Newsweek picked up this off-the-record comment by Senator Obama prior barack-obama1to the debates:

“I don’t consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, ‘You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.’ So when Brian Williams is asking me about what’s a personal thing that you’ve done [that’s green], and I say, you know, ‘Well, I planted a bunch of trees.’ And he says, ‘I’m talking about personal.’ What I’m thinking in my head is, ‘Well, the truth is, Brian, we can’t solve global warming because I f—ing changed light bulbs in my house. It’s because of something collective’.”

The beauty of this unscripted, honest response to climate change is that it demonstrates that Barack Obama isn’t just about the superficial, pop-media responses to the crisis, he has a deeper understanding of the work we have in front of us.  He realizes that this isn’t something that a few token efforts will solve, it will require sweeping changes in how we live, how we utilize energy and our resources, and massive changes in our fuel and energy infrastructure.  He knows that it’s not about the effing light bulbs.

via treehugger.com

Insulate Yourself Against Recession With Renewable Energy and Urban Farming

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on October 18, 2008 by theseep

Like it or not, we’re in at least a recession and possibly heading for a depression.  The federal government can bail out banks and throw money into the system without having any real inkling as to whether it will actually work or not, but there’s no denying that we will all be affected.  Some will lose jobs, some will take a hit on retirement, some will lose their homes, and some might even have to sell their second yacht.  Regardless of where you stand, as we approach peak oil, energy, food, and transportation will continue to become more costly, and as finances become tighter, we will all have to take a good look at how we use our money and our resources.

How can you protect yourself against this downturn?   Become as self-sufficient as possible.  With the renewed and expanded tax credits, and more payment plans available, residential solar installations are now within reach of many Americans.  Solar hot water and solar ovens to cook your food will decrease your gas or electric bill.  Plant a garden for cheap, fresh vegetables and herbs and some free exercise instead of a gym membership.  Compost your kitchen waste for free fertilizer for your plants and garden.  Look into a commuter bike or an electric bike or scooter for fast, nearly free local transportation.  Find out what public transportation is available to you and take the bus or the train to work, or find other commuters to carpool with.  Perform an energy audit of your home and replace incandescents with CFL bulbs or even better, energy-sipping LEDs.  Turn off unused lights and electronics with power strips to combat phantom power loads.  If you’re upgrading or changing appliances, make sure that your new ones are Energy Star certified, particularly your computer, refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer.  Reinsulate your home and seal doors and windows against drafts.  Plant fruit trees and berry bushes around your property for year after year of seasonal food that can be canned for use later or given away as inexpensive but creative and sustainable gifts.  There are hundreds of other small changes that you can make that are not only rewarding and will decrease your impact on the planet, but will save significant amounts of money for you and your family as food and energy prices rise.  This is not only a conscientious thing to do, it’s fiscally responsible!