What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Transition excitement

We are set to attend the Transition training on the 4th-6th of November in Sautee GA. They've got us a free place to stay that will let us bring Annie the dog and are being extremely helpful. We've also got another awareness raising presentation on the 13th of November and are busy publicising that. Additionally some folks in our neighborhood seem excited about it. WooHoo! At last we are underway with Transtion Hickory or Transition Catawba or whatever it ends up being.

For more info in Transition check out Transition US and or the Transition Network

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A personal relationship with Jevons

I listened to a wonderful interview with efficiency guru Amory Lovins on Science Friday recently and was so impressed with Mr. Lovins techno-optimism. With the effects of Peak Oil becoming more obvious on a daily basis we clearly need to pursue energy efficiency at all costs. However we need to do all we can to avoid the pitfalls of the Jevons paradox, whereby the increased energy, money, time etc available to us are not reinvested into pointless consumerism and wasteful energy, money, time etc expenditures, thereby cancelling out the gains from efficiency. Here is the Wikipedia definition of the Jevons paradox:

"In economics, the Jevons paradox (sometimes Jevons effect) is the proposition that technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource.[1] In 1865, the English economist William Stanley Jevons observed that technological improvements that increased the efficiency of coal-use led to the increased consumption of coal in a wide range of industries. He argued that, contrary to common intuition, technological improvements could not be relied upon to reduce fuel consumption.[2]
The issue has more recently been reexamined by modern economists studying consumption rebound effects from improved energy efficiency. In addition to reducing the amount needed for a given use, improved efficiency lowers the relative cost of using a resource, which increases the quantity demanded of the resource, potentially counteracting any savings from increased efficiency. Additionally, increased efficiency accelerates economic growth, further increasing the demand for resources. The Jevons paradox occurs when the effect from increased demand predominates, causing an increase in overall resource use.
The Jevons paradox has been used to argue that energy conservation is futile, as increased efficiency may actually increase fuel use. Nevertheless, increased efficiency can improve material living standards. Further, fuel use declines if increased efficiency is coupled with a green tax that keeps the cost of use the same (or higher).[3] As the Jevons paradox applies only to technological improvements that increase fuel efficiency, policies that impose conservation standards and increase costs do not display the Jevons paradox."

So as we pursue more sustainable lifestyle choices it is important to reinvest in sustainability rather than consumerism. Examples might be; purchasing rainwater harvesting equipment instead of a new flat screen TV,  going solar instead of going nuclear or fossil (a choice you can make at home), repairing that old car rather than buying a new one (even if it is a more efficient one), choosing to work less for money and thus have more time to grow food or hang out with family (and also pay less taxes),  designing car free days into your schedule to reduce energy use while also encouraging fewer shopping trips, etc, etc.
In short, we need to develop a personal relationship with Jevons.

Check out the second half of the Radio Ecoshock Episode I've posted in the audio above for more on these ideas. Or you can click here for that audio file: http://www.ecoshock.net/eshock11/ES_110629_Show.mp3

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The deck takes shape

basic framing, with portal for tank access, step stringers, and some trex installed

cross bracing and notched post attachments

attaching Trex step treads to stringers, note temporary post and insulation 

notching the real post

Getting Annie used to the new surface, the hatch over a tank is just perceivable
The deck over the rainwater tanks is coming along nicely. Due to a problem with supply of quality black locust and the extra expense involved we opted to build the main frame out of treated pine and cover it with Trex, a  95% recycled plastic and wood chip product. The arbor and shade structure will be, hopefully, out of black locust. This deck will not only shade the rainwater tanks but the attached shade structure will shade the southeast facing wall and windows while providing a climbing surface for kiwi's and grapes. It also gives us back our east steps and entrance as well as access to the eastside rainwater diverter and first flush device for clean out.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Transition, cool weather and car free days

It's gotten quite cool here in Hickory, down into the 40s at night and only in the 70s during the day. We even used the wood stove this week, both for heating and cooking. We had a couple of car free days out of the last seven and it's looking like tomorrow will be car free as well. I'm mostly working on the deck, notching and putting in the posts, and I have to get the new porch timbers sealed in preparation for installing the new windows. Jacq has been very busy processing loads of basil into frozen pesto, clearing tomato beds, laying new soil and mulch before planting fall crops, and completing the glazing order. We have to get the windows in before winter. I spent some time today shoving recycled styrofoam all around the back of the rainwater tanks in preparation for freezing temperatures. As they get full sun in the morning, I hope that insulating the backs and tops will keep them from freezing this winter. We have been using a lot of rainwater for washing clothes as well as the garden. I also used it to mix concrete footers for the deck posts.
The really big news this week is that we had our inaugural Transition Hickory awareness raising presentation. The turn out was about 23 folks with limited publicity. Currently there are three more possibilities for talks as well. We hope that soon we will have folks stepping forward to be on the Steering committee. If you'd like to know more about Transition check out Transition US or watch the video above.