The easy way to start saving energy and water at home

Presidents' Eco-Musings

Original content by Dwight Hydropower, Jimmy Charger and Ronald Regen

Earth Day Energy  -  May 15, 2021

All these years but the last two years, instead of celebrating nature outdoors on Earth Day, I was doing my taxes, thanks to the pandemic relief. It is not that I leave everything for the last minute; it is only that there seems to be an eternal line of things that also need to be done by their own deadlines and I never seem to be able to run ahead of this eternal moving line!

Anyway, besides that Earth Day this year fell again on a weekday and, therefore, I would only have been able to go out after work, it was an unusual cold and rainy 5 °C in Boston. So, I was all day home, which makes me feel good about not burning gasoline, consumed by Zoom meetings and thinking if I should get a 52” TV since I need but cannot see 20 people at the same time on my rather tiny netbook screen. Then, instead of destroying the environment with my car, I would be doing with my TV!


Hair Snare Sticker Picker  -  March 15, 2021

If you have at least one furry pet, you might have this. If you have at least one furry pet and a favorite fleece garment, you certainly cannot live without this: a pet hair remover.

Now, allied with my new policy of thinking really hard on how something that easily ends up in the trash can have a second purpose, I started seeing the roll of the roller pet hair remover lasting longer. It is a task that if you do with a lot of patience, you will have killed two birds with one stone.

Peel off very, very slowly the label of any container (e.g., food, detergent, prescription, etc.) before you toss it into the recycling bin. Don’t worry if you tear the label; the most important is to have the sticky part come unglued from the container. Use it to remove pet hair from your fleece. You will have become greener by recycling your recyclables without the label and you will see the roll of the roller pet hair remover last longer.


Power Drill Woes Spinning in My Head  -  January 15, 2021

Boston winter already means more time indoors and with COVID-19 still in our lives, I decided to work on a project and charged my cordless drill. I knew the battery was not keeping the charge for too long but it would have been enough for my project. Nonetheless, the battery had died completely, that is, didn’t charge at all. Luckily, I still had my old dependable corded drill and finished the project.

Looking for a replacement battery for my cordless drill, I saw that I could buy a new cordless drill with two rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for the same price of an OEM replacement nickel-cadmium battery for my old cordless drill. No, that is not living sustainably, as much as it is enticing and makers do know that so well. Further, although lithium-ion batteries last noticeably much longer, both in holding a charge and in overall life, as compared to nickel-related batteries, no matter how often I will use a cordless drill, rechargeable batteries will always have an end-of-life. Since I use a power drill only sporadically, I decided to just stick to my old but always reliable corded drill.


15-Minute Brake Stand  -  November 15, 2020

There came the inevitable flight for work during this COVID-19 time. The flight out was so empty that my concerns about contracting Coronavirus were gone. But I felt very guilty of my carbon footprint for such an empty flight.

On the way back, while waiting to depart, the pilot explained that an alternate flight path was filed to avoid turbulent weather. But, after leaving the gate, air traffic control rejected that plan, rendering our plane overweight from the additional fuel required to take the 20-minute-longer route around the turbulent weather and, since turbulence was expected, there would be no beverage service on this flight. The pilot continued, jokingly I thought, that he’ll just have to sit on the tarmac and burn fuel unless air traffic control changed their mind. Seconds later, the engines revved up.

We passengers all sat disappointingly delayed, though seemingly complacent, as the pilot held the brakes and burned fuel. I was not complacent but downright disgusted at the waste. Was this really the best procedure that the FAA could come up with?

The flight wasn’t so turbulent after all but, close to our destination, we, patient and thirsty passengers, were stuck in a holding pattern for a few rounds until finally landing one hour late. I considered driving home at exactly 55 mph to make up for the carbon footprint of the airline industry but instead sped home faster than usual to make up for the lost time.


Conservationalistism  -  September 15, 2020

In the face of the many antiracism protests, we, at Savvy on Waste, also want to say that we care about racism. It had been more than time for victims of racism to no longer stay quiet, but a crash course on racism might not be the way.

It reminds me of the first time I took a reusable bag to the grocery store. I was totally frowned upon. I didn't create a scene but didn't give up either on what I believed. With time and patience, I could have some stores use my bags. I was thrilled when grocery stores started giving 5 cents back for each reusable bag brought to the store as an incentive. The habit has become so ingrained in our lives that, in the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, consumers sighed in disappointment that they couldn't enter the stores with reusable bags.

What I want to say is that we will get the deserved justice on racism. But rushing things out might create more anger from the very ones we want awareness from because they cannot yet grasp emotionally what is being said or asked. I believe time to learn and to process should be paced so that meaningful contributions can happen, as it happens every day on living a more sustainable life.


Hand Washing Solution   -  August 15, 2020

With the newfound popularity and importance of hand washing that the Coronavirus has induced, I was curious to know the balance between cleanliness and water conservation. My observation is that when one is important, the other is not. Taking a deep dive into internet searching for hand washing procedures, I found almost all instructions lacking detail about what to do with the water. Finally, I found one that clearly instructed, “Wet your hands with running water. Turn off the tap and apply soap.”

Going down the rabbit hole on the subject, other search results reminded me of the mandates and technologies long established to promote water conservation and quality. Studies have been conducted revealing the volumes of water wasted down the drain from letting the tap run while soaping. I also read several conflicting statements about what temperature the water must be. I, for one, could certainly save much more water if I didn’t wait for the hot water to arrive at the tap before every instance of wanting to wash my hands. Lastly, I was reminded that the cure must not be worse than the problem. In this case, the need for clean hands must not become a water resource problem.

So, with some thought and attention to detail, each hand washing instance can be a water-conservation habit-forming opportunity. I summon up a quote from inventor and visionary R. Buckminster Fuller, “[be] architects of the future, not its victims.”


Oh Scrap!  -  July 15, 2020

From time to time, I recycle the metals that I accumulate from various projects and broken appliances. Apparently, I make it look convenient enough that a friend wanted to do it, too. In the process of writing some simple tips and guidelines, I realized that scrapping isn’t simple at all. I settled on explaining it with the proverb of “the more effort in will equal greater reward out.”

This process reminded me why it’s beneficial to recycle scrap metal. Metals last forever. Even in their oxidized forms, such as rust, they can still be made into commodities with far, far less energy than extracting it from ore. In fact, the market value of certain metals is set based on the predictability of the availability of recycled material versus that which must be sourced from ore.

Though the scrapping industry seems to function with a dark, unpublicized, even underground style, and earns a bad reputation when one person’s plumbing becomes another person’s scrap, it is important to recognize and appreciate its benefit to the economy and the environment. You might want to contribute however you can!


TP Crisis  -  May 15, 2020

For over a year now, I’ve been collecting consumption data on a socially and hygienically necessary, valuable and most comforting commodity to never, ever, ever run out of—toilet paper (TP)!

In the interest of supporting my hobby of being space-conscious and frugal, though not to the point of using old catalogs and corn cobs, I really wanted to buy TP in a cost-efficient manner. The problem is, unlike most consumable goods and groceries that state a cost per standardized unit of measure, such as cost per pound or per gallon, TP is stated in cost per sheet. What the heck is a sheet in terms of a unit of measure? It has variations such as single-ply, double-ply, quilted, soft, strong, rapid-dissolving, long lasting, and even the size and number of sheets on a roll vary. In other words, a sheet is an entirely useless unit of measure. So, my solution, persnickety perhaps, is to weigh each roll and, later, weigh its cardboard core, thereby, scientifically and impartially establishing the cost per gram of usable product.

Well, maybe I don’t care about TP mass anyway, because what I really want to know is how much TP I spend per unit of time, such as cost per month. Well, in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, I could not find my subject brand, so, my research, like the rest of the economy, classrooms, and TP buying sprees, is on hold. When we can buy any of the many brands of TP again, considering consumption with the merits of science, I will rejoice in the comforts of TP reliance.


A Special Message for Earth Day  -  April 22, 2020

Not that the Earth needs any special message; she would be fine as a socially distant planet all by herself without humans beckoning her resources and reassuring her that we love her and that she’s healthy and well. In fact, we all know she was healthier before we came along. Finally, now we’re giving her some respite, staying inside and lightening our footprint. Yet, we still yearn to be with her in parks and on trails because we really do love her and appreciate all that she offers. Alas, it’s not for her love and appreciation that we humans are putting up this great effort to preserve her. We are doing it only to preserve ourselves—from that other sphere—the Coronavirus. While we’re in it together for whatever duration helping out in every family, town and nation, remember, too, your planet deserves appreciation.


Energy Epidemiology  -  April 15, 2020

Among all things COVID-19, what about the profound shift in energy use? The title above isn’t just a tongue twister, it actually is a science. I had wondered what would happen if everyone in the world stopped commuting and began heating their homes all day long instead (at least for us in Massachusetts). Now that we can actually observe the effects, it’s clear that transportation consumes far, far more energy than domestic climate control.

I had estimated that some households, in some months, have nearly equal costs for gasoline as for home heating fuel. Of course, further ruminating reminded me that they are not quite equal, as most people, like myself, never turn their heat off, just down. However, when I’m not in my car, the car is completely off.

So, in this season of contagions, admire the outdoors through your window from your chair or go out in it if you dare. Breathe. It may be the cleanest air.


“BABOON BOARD”  -  March 15, 2020

In an effort to help reduce the spread of the Coronavirus, you figured you could just drive your cutest cherub-faced one around to get some sunshine and fresh air. You needed a BABY ON BOARD sign. You are trying to live as green as you can and buy locally but, to avoid unnecessary trips out because of the Coronavirus, you went online. You found only made-in-China signs. So, you decided to make your own sign. That's great, you can't go greener than that!

But, please, can you follow some formatting standards and write “BABY ON BOARD” in three lines inside the yellow diamond and not “BABY ON” on one line and “BOARD” on the next? With my poor eyesight, I thought, what the heck is a “BABOON BOARD”? I almost had to rear-end your car to read it correctly, and when I did, I almost wanted to truly rear-end it! So please, make “BABY ON BOARD” recognizable from a safe distance and in three lines, so it also looks aesthetically more pleasant. And be safe!


COVID-19 Coveting  -  February 15, 2020

In the middle of doing some dusty home improvements, I thought I should replenish my supply of dust masks. But, the man at the big blue home improvement store explained that they were sold out because all their masks were shipped to China. At the big orange home improvement store, I also found only empty shelves where the dusk masks used to be. So, I began thinking about how to conserve and reuse the few masks that I still had and, for that matter, wondered how much single-use masks impact the environment anyway.

A quick internet search revealed that reusable masks exist and in a variety of fashionable colors and patterns. However, an insert does the actual filtering and it is, of course, disposable. I suppose, as with most hygienic products, there is a balance between cleanliness and wastefulness, and dying for lack of cleanliness could be considered the ultimate wastefulness. As COVID-19 looms as a commercially disruptive and deadly threat, time may tell how it coerces our need to conserve.


Don’t Do What Mr. Bean Did!  -  January 15, 2020

Now that even the twelfth day of Christmas has come and gone, I am again in the Christmas spirit from seeing all the Christmas trees in brush piles and sidewalks.

The waste also reminds me of the Mr. Bean Christmas Special, in which he was desperate for a tree. He chops down the giant 30-foot city Christmas tree, drags it to his flat, cuts off 5 feet from the top so it fits through his window, and leaves the rest as waste. I still laughed but felt the irony.

Although most of us won’t do that, we still buy cut Christmas trees. But in Germany, Christmas tree shaming seems to have swept the country. The prevailing thought being that it is ecologically irresponsible to buy and discard a once living thing, the trend now is to rent a potted tree.

Whether it is just a fad or a practice that will last, at least, it has gotten people thinking about environmental responsibility, which will hopefully last longer than a season of dead trees and television specials.


Dumpster Fantasy  -  December 15, 2019

I was finally getting my entire roof stripped and re-shingled and the contractor had a tiny, tiny dumpster delivered to my yard. Clearly, the volume of material to be stripped would not fit in that little thing but, among asphalt shingles, wood, aluminum and lead flashing, and the workers’ water and soda bottles, I realized, of course! In this day of green building and earth-friendly recycling, there would be a dumpster for each type of material and my yard would be filled with many, many tiny dumpsters. Disappointingly for the sake of the environment, though, thankfully for the sake of my neighborhood, there was only ever one dumpster that everything went into and hauled away, and another (larger one) delivered and hauled away. At the end of the project, just in time before this unusually early snow storm in Boston, I thanked the contractor for excellent workmanship and for providing me with one fleeting, euphoric moment of make-believe that contractors had also begun to recycle.


Inspiration from Florida Man’s Duration  -  November 15, 2019

Thanksgiving is approaching
and demanding of the feast:
environmental coaching
while impacting the least.

Perhaps locally sourced
is the way to go.
Natural, not forced,
is the method to grow.

So I drew inspiration
from a Florida man,
who’s one year duration
was quite a grueling plan.

He only would eat
a sustainable yield.
He accomplished this feat,
his name: Rob Greenfield.

Only that which he grew
or for which he could forage.
For protein, went fishing too,
and canned food for storage.

So, back to Thanksgiving
and planning the feast,
sustainable living
need never be least.


Bossed by My Exhaust  -  October 15, 2019

I was driving and thought something was getting loud very quickly. Suddenly, it turned out to be the muffler rusting off its inlet exhaust pipe, which soon became totally disconnected. Until my new muffler came in, I was starting off and driving very gently, so I wouldn't be stopped by the police for excessive noise. So, do you want to save gas? Rip off your muffler!

Jokes aside, when you don’t have a muffler, the exhaust noise magnifies how much you are really stepping on the gas. It was indeed a learning tool that made me realize that my excellent habits for getting good mileage weren’t good at all!


Maggots Are Not Recyclable!  -  September 15, 2019

With the summer over and more attentive of the routine, I knew something wasn’t right when I found maggots in the recycling bin. Now, as a landlord and self-proclaimed master recycler, I was actually happy to have my own little infrastructure challenge to solve. I have read about recycling, have toured the sort center and have even written about recycling in January of this year (see Dumb and Dirty), so I know that what’s preached isn’t necessarily practiced. Though organic, maggots would be categorized as unrecyclable, as well as anything that’s not basically 95.5% of the material it’s supposed to be and that means it must be pretty darn clean.

So, back to my big solution for my little recycling infrastructure problem: I simply stuck a sign to the bin that reads ‘RECYCLABLES MUST BE CLEAN’. This was a few weeks ago and I am glad to be observing that it is helping, to the extent that most of the contents look sufficiently clean, except for an occasional bag of trash that I tactfully and theatrically relocate to the trash bin. I also realize that my affinity to clean recyclables is much greater than my aversion to the maggots that now only appear in the trash bin.


What’s Hot and What’s Not? High Tech May Be Not  -  August 15, 2019

It’s the middle of the summer and I just experienced the chilling unpleasantness of my water heater reaching the end of its life. But with outside temperatures in the 90’s, I thought it would be a golden opportunity to replace it with a technologically advanced super-efficient unit.

I decided for a mini-split heat-pump unit with CO2 refrigerant but found out that there were no authorized vendors in Massachusetts. Of course not! For there is no rebate program in Massachusetts for installing a green water heater! I had to get quotes from vendors in other states, which was not a problem, as they ship anywhere and as long as I provide the credentials of a licensed plumber. Next was to find that licensed plumber who was familiar with the technology and willing to cooperate with my endeavor. The first plumber discreetly bailed out but I didn't get discouraged. I only had to find one plumber who was the right one and I did. I was excited.

Nonetheless, after some discussion, this energy-conscious plumber reminded me that being green is also about consumption and, for a single person household, I might be greener if I stayed with the conventional electric water heater. Besides that my split unit would ship from another state, it is significantly more costly to purchase and install, and also requires expensive annual maintenance.

It perfectly made sense to me. In the end, it saved me a lot of money compared to not ever recouping my return on investment if I had installed the split unit. The analogy that came to mind was that it would have been as if I had decided to buy a hybrid car because of its comparably small carbon footprint when, in fact, I have only ridden a bicycle. It doesn't make sense, of course, and now I have a renewed appreciation for what is simple and maintenance-free.


The Inopportune Darkness  -  July 15, 2019

This week, I was out of town at a hotel and continually being annoyed by the light in the bathroom. What it was doing to me was turning on every time I just reached inside to get something. What took me one second triggered the light for what would have been twenty minutes!

Of course, I reached inside again and turned off the light. Moments later, I really needed that light to do something in the bathroom. This time, inopportunely, it didn’t turn on because I had manually turned it off. So, I pressed the button to turn it on. It did not. I pressed it again and nothing. Maybe I repeated this a few times until I realized it was a fluorescent light and the only way to tell the position of the switch was to wait for the sloooow fluorescent ballast to create light.

Eventually, it illuminated and I was relieved that it was not something I had to live with. I had never had to put so much energy into an energy-saving switch!


Reason for Freezin’  -  June 15, 2019

Food is expensive, so when your favorite kind goes on sale, it certainly may behoove you to buy lots of it. But then what? Watch it rot, gorge, eat only that thing for all your next meals, put it in a spare freezer?

I have an energy-conscious friend who chooses to freeze, of course, because she already has a spare freezer. After all, this is what people do with expensive foods, such as meats and chocolates, but her big windfall is bread. Immediately, I pondered this wisdom. How much could one save on bread versus the cost of energy to run a freezer?

I am both amazed and disappointed to say that, in all my efforts to conserve energy by buying preservative-laden processed food, I could have been freezing a much healthier reserve for less than $5 a month. Even cheap bread is worth it. My friend has figured out how to keep freshly baked organic bread and natural foods with no need for unnecessary preservatives.


Be Earth-friendlier than Before When You Go to a Store  -  May 15, 2019

Now it’s spring, the rain and wind blew, and now flowers are due, the house is a mess and it’s time to renew.

It’s also a great time for scavenging, finding things on the curb. Ah, how I wish I could give new life to each appliance, lamp and dish, but my living space is confined like that of a fish.

I should, however, only acquire those items that are due to renew. When shopping for a refrigerator, washer or drier, I must have it be earth-friendlier than the prior.


Earth Dayist  -  April 15, 2019

What to do for Earth Day? It happens every year on April 22nd, you know. So, in reading some suggestions, I became conflicted, as so many were about what to buy. Do I need to drive around and buy earth-friendly house cleaning products, Earth Day celebration cards and balloons, and replace all my light bulbs and thermostats?

I thought the underlying theme of Earth Day was to be conservative. That is, to be conservative, not a conservative, but how have so many words about being good to the planet ended up being associated with freaks, such as environmentalists, conservationists, and politicians?

I will do as I may on Earth Day, with conservative zeal, and I will not feel the judgmental stigma of the vocabulary enigma.


Start up and Go!  -  March 15, 2019

I heard a car running one night, idling long enough that I thought it must have been someone’s generator. But, then, it drove away! On one recent frigid morning, I heard it running again. I looked out my window and saw my neighbor jumping in, in sweatpants and sandals, and drove away. Both times, it was about 40 minutes of idling. Yeah... we all want Boston to feel like spring!

On another occasion, my contractor and I got to talking for about 40 minutes in the house. When we went back out, he said, “Huh, I left my truck idling this whole time!” For me, it is just automatic that I always have the key in my hand whenever I step out of the car.

I also see others idling inside their cars. Are they checking their phone? Getting the map ready? Does their car still have a carburetor?

Don’t believe the misconception that the car needs to be warmed up before starting to drive. Since the late 1980’s, fuel injection has negated this custom.

Admittedly, I am also guilty, as just two mornings ago, my car looked like one of those bagged frozen shrimps. I idled for about 10 minutes while the ice melted off my car!


Thermal-Retention Potatoes  -  February 15, 2019

Have you ever thought about how much gas you could save by cooking your rice for 2 minutes instead of 20 minutes? You can do that with thermal-retention cooking.

I really thought I was jumping on the bandwagon of a new discovery, but the concept is probably as old as cooking itself. It is similar to using your Thermos for cooking and not just for keeping your coffee hot.

The concept is to use only 2 minutes worth of energy and retain that heat in an insulated vessel to allow the cooking to be completed, similar to cooking with a Crockpot that uses insulation instead of electricity. Of course, this takes longer than 20 minutes, actually, a few hours. Too long you might say but one of the other great benefits is that these cookers are portable. So, plan accordingly and you will have a hot meal wherever you go and still with significant savings of fuel.

I was very satisfied with my potatoes that I cooked this way. I boiled them for 2 minutes, took a nap, and this time I woke up and they were cooked and still hot. I promised you in Potato Energy (Feb. 15, 2017) that my next potato was going to be energy efficient! It just took two years for that to happen...


Dumb and Dirty  -  January 15, 2019

I heard an ever so brief news snippet on the radio – that China is rejecting recyclables from the US because they do not meet their recently proclaimed cleanliness standards of less than 0.5% contamination. It also turns out that this is not news – it’s just part of an economical cycle where only the most valuable commodities, such as the cleanest recyclables, are marketable.

Nonetheless, some communities do better than others at recycling due largely to their waste management infrastructure. If demand is low, then, only the cleanest sorted bales of material are not trucked off to the landfill. Though it sounds wasteful, it is actually profitable for landfill owners. I also know from taking a tour of a recycling sorting center that no human or machine looks for those little triangle recycling symbols; sorting is largely controlled by human laborers, but that’s just sorting, not cleaning.

Now that I am more educated about recycling, I can certainly improve the quality of my recyclables. I ask myself, do I have less than 0.5% prune juice in the bottle or less than 0.5% graham cracker crumbs in the box? But if I really want to be smart, it is not just cleaning my recyclables but acquiring fewer discardable materials just because they are recyclable.


Happy Mall-A-Days  -  December 15, 2018

It’s that time of the year when something is different.
Driving around after dark and going to the store,
There are the usual lights and so many more.
So many colors, so vivid, so bright.
Inflatable characters so huge but so light.
Animated lasers that dazzle the night.
They explode in my eyes and overstimulate my mind,
Alas, I see the waste left behind.

Though not intending to be so Scroogely,
Frugality here would help hugely.
Like the epiphany in some Grinchly lore,
“What if Christmas … doesn’t come from a store.
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”


Can't Win  -  November 15, 2018

Don't heat with oil, it's messy; don’t use gas or propane, they explode; don't use electricity, it's expensive. Just have a good jacket, but not down, it's animal cruelty; not synthetic, it’s derived from petroleum. Just go to the Caribbean and join a nude beach. But stay there because traveling has a large carbon footprint.

Jokes aside, it is mid-November in Boston and the symbol on the weather app was indeed a sunshine forecast to melt away the snow from the previous day. But I put too much faith in it. I am now scraping the snow off my driveway on this cold overcast afternoon!


Destination Elevators  -  October 15, 2018

Right after writing Elevatorism last month, I was acquainted with destination elevators. I was even more surprised to find out that they have been in operation in skyscrapers in major metropolitan cities, such as New York and Chicago, for a decade already. I haven’t yet found one in Boston.

You won’t find any buttons inside these elevators. You have to know where you are going before you get in. You enter your floor number in the kiosk at the elevator bank and it will display which car you should take.

This means, if you thought you could make an excuse to avoid riding with someone else, you will have to suck it up. On the other hand, you can get in the elevator while remaining oblivious to your surroundings by taking refuge in your smart phone since no further interactions are required.

So, just when I thought elevators couldn’t get any smarter, they did. That’s not to say that destination elevators cannot be outsmarted. Pranksters can still enter a floor number countless times in an attempt to ride alone or make the elevator come quicker.

Overall, destination elevators, when used as intended, reduce elevator wait time and operate with greater energy efficiency.


Elevatorism   -  September 15, 2018

The other day, I saw two people waiting for the elevator in my 3-story office building. There are actually two elevators, side by side, and, on this coincidental occasion, each of the elevators’ doors opened at the same time and each person got into their own personal elevator for their own private ride. I don’t think either went to the second floor. So, they probably met again on the third floor, where they finally acknowledged one another, with the obligatory morning office salutations which they had only delayed by taking two elevators instead of one.

I am one of the stair people—someone who takes the stairs because it should be healthier, more energy conscious and, sometimes, actually faster. Though it might not be where a facilities manager focuses their energy savings incentives, I still cast scandalous judgment on those elevator people for not being as green as they could be and I cast even deeper judgement judgment from the psychologically revealing selection of who rides with whom.


Tub to Tank  -  August 15, 2018

I’ve done this for ages and have taken it for granted until someone saw me doing this recently and I thought I should let the world know about it. Instead of draining the water from the bathtub, usually filled halfway to the overflow, I reuse the water to fill the toilet tank. Two people all day at home will end up using almost all the water from the tub for a 1.6-gallon per flush toilet.

Of course, reusing water is not a new concept. In Japan, for example, washers are installed in the bathrooms, so, the wash cycle is done with water from the tub.

Although taking a shower consumes less water, it all goes down the drain. Even when we are out for the day, we still find many other ways to use for the water: water the plants, do the laundry, bathe the dog, wash the car, scrub the deck, etc. What would you or have you done to reuse tub water?


Nitrile in style  -  July 15, 2018

After weeding the garden, painting her flower pots, inflating the tire on her wheelbarrow and churning the compost, I came in the house and she said “Eek! Don’t touch me with your filthy hands! Why don’t you wear gloves?”

Not only did I think it was silly, next she gave me a box of 100 disposable gloves! But now I love it. Here are the benefits:

- I save water by washing my hands less
- I save time because I am not washing my hands as often
- I don’t have to use the pumice abrasive workman soap
- I don’t have to slather on the moisturizing hand cream
- My hands look nicer and she loves them!


Illumination Depreciation  -  June 15, 2018

Now, with longer, hotter days of summer, I changed my 45-watt CFL bulb to a 35-watt one and, to my surprise, the 35-watt one was brighter! I had suspected that the 45-watt bulb had dimmed a bit but never expected to be able to see it so drastically. (if you care to know, it is a photography bulb since I needed my one-fixture living room to be super bright)

I almost felt like changing back to the dim 45-watt bulb because maybe I don’t need it that bright anyway and thought I would also save energy. Just to be sure, I started researching and learned of a lighting phenomenon known as lumen depreciation. It is the degradation of luminous output that occurs as a light source ages. Another disappointing aspect of this is that as the bulb produces less light it doesn’t consume less energy, it simply dissipates a greater percentage of that energy as heat. Thank goodness for me this happened in the winter.

For an even darker outlook, don’t think that swapping to LED’s is any kind of remedy. Lumen depreciation happens to them too. In fact it happens to all light sources to varying extents. Even to incandescent bulbs. The brightest idea with CFL’s may be to change them before they reach 30% depreciation, that is, when the coil at the base is blackened, rather than waiting for them to burn out!


Fantastic Boat Cover Plastic  -  May 15, 2018

Spring has finally arrived in Boston and it is time for boating! I am helping my Dad wrestle the tarp off the boat, while I see the neighbor cutting his boat’s white shrink-wrap cover into pieces.

I was thinking how these white shrink-wrap covers have become the trend of the present day. They fit snuggly and really keep the boat impermeable from snow and leaves accumulating over or getting under it. If you live where it snows, an icy clump of snow and leaves stuck in the folds of a the tarp really becomes messy when you uncover the boat, while the shrink-wrap remains pristine white throughout the entire winter. The shrink-wrap has also the advantage that when it is time to winterize the boat again for the season, you won’t need to recruit your entire family to struggle with a tarp because you can hire a company to shrink-wrap your boat.

But, with Earth Day 2018 “End Plastic Pollution” fresh in my mind, when I saw the neighbor throwing the pieces in the trash, I got quite alarmed. I was wondering if that huge amount of plastic could be recycled. I did some research and found out that shrink wrap is fantastic because it is high quality plastic. It can be recycled completely if you bag it up neatly. The company that wrapped your boat can unwrap it, too. Ask if recycling is something they do. Maybe for this reason, even my Dad will consider it next season.


Socks on the Rocks  -  April 15, 2018

Now that I have been wearing my base layer for months in Boston’s long winter—in my boots, around the house, for sleeping in—I see my socks wearing out faster than I ever remember. I don’t think it is my dry aging skin. I think it is the declining quality of the textiles I’m in.

No matter how smart I think I chose, I’ll still look down and see my toes and, no matter how tough a new pair feels, eventually, I’ll see my heels.

The holes in the cotton or wool ones don’t look fresh and the synthetic blends molt down to their mesh. They just don’t make them they used to. Is this a phenomenon of mass production or a planned campaign of marketing seduction?


Bathtub in the Wall  -  March 15, 2018

Past the third Nor'easter storm in 11 days and March 1-day snowfall record in Boston, I stood looking out my window, admiring the clarity of my gas-filled triple-pane glass, so clear, I actually I felt like I was outside with the loud traffic and breeze on my face. But I was inside, experiencing a wicked draft!

It wasn’t the windows or my well-insulated walls, it was the space in between. At first, I thought a little draft isn’t so bad, then, I remembered what happens in a bathtub. The water is fluid, like the air in my living room; it doesn’t matter how contained it is, eventually, it will all flow down the drain.

In other words, a small gap in the wall is where all the heat will escape. This effect feels small because my heater is continuously replacing that loss. But beware – it is like having a drain hole in the wall.


Want Hot, Waste Not  -  February 15, 2018

It felt great when I screwed in the low-flow faucet aerators and shower heads last spring. Now, with below zero Fahrenheit temperatures that we had in Boston in the last few weeks, I could feel how much longer I was waiting for the hot water to caress my hands, especially after shoveling 18 inches of snow.

Of course, it takes longer because the water held in the pipes is still the same volume. So, what am I saving if I let the cold water—that was hot in the first place—run until it gets displaced by new hot water? The answer is nothing unless I can prevent the hot water from becoming cold.

Mentioning this to an acquaintance, I was amazed that he already had a solution. He keeps the water moving, as it is done in hotels and large buildings, but without resorting to a pump. He installed additional pipe to make a loop so the water would thermo-siphon, keeping the hot water much closer to his hands whenever he wants it.

Alright, my next project for the house, weather permitting!


Fright to Repair  -  January 15, 2018

Did you get a new phone for Christmas? I dropped mine and the screen shattered. I had another one from the same generation that didn’t work. So, being mechanically inclined and materialistically conservative, I thought I would swap parts to make one good phone out of two bad ones.

But before I could even take them apart, I needed to order the special tools. Then, watch several YouTube videos. Then, I was careful and successful not to damage any of the numerous interlaced delicate parts only to find that the parts were not interchangeable after all.

I resigned to bring it to a store. I made it through the barrage of salespeople pressuring me to buy a new phone only to discover that a third party repair shop was what I had to seek out next. The shop charges 1/3 the cost of a new phone just for diagnosis. Well, I got it fixed this time, but now I am very afraid of the next time.


D’oh Christmas Tree  -  December 15, 2017

No matter how you cut it, a Christmas tree indoors is less eco-friendly than one outside. And then there’s the dispute of real or fake, so here are some paradoxical choices to make:

A tree indoors, as with many a tradition,
like the joy of a family’s new addition,
is fraught with potential perils unknown.
So, choose wisely the tree that will be your own.

Choose a tree that’s not PVC plastic,
not too rigid and not too elastic,
but must also never shed needles,
sap, parasites, ticks, nor beetles.

It could come with lights if you feel lazy,
or do it yourself and risk going crazy.

Choose a tree not too small and not too imposing.
Consider transportation, and storage, or disposing.

Remember, too, when you get a tree,
you might need one accessory:
a sturdy stand that will not tip,
with a water pot that will not drip.

Now, for a genuine Christmas tree aura,
there must be the scent of evergreen flora.
But you cannot fool a real tree fan,
it must be from nature, not from a can.

When all done and content to admire
your shiny glowing electrified spire,
will your chosen tree never catch fire?


Thanksgiving is Green!  -  November 15, 2017

Aside from so much travel and baking,
Thanksgiving is a green holiday in the making.
It is a time of economical frugality,
And a time to appreciate others’ hospitality.
A time for grateful wishes of thank you,
And a time to be kind and to give, too.
A time to remember a great cooperation,
A time that inspired a culinary celebration,
A time of the harvest made so appetizing,
A time not mired in frivolous merchandising.


Reuse the Reusable  -  October 15, 2017

I’ve got this friend who I finally convinced to buy a reusable grocery bag. But every time he goes to the store, he forgets to bring it. So, every time he buys a new one. Now he has a full closet of reusable bags that have been used only once.

Unfortunately, it seems I convinced him only to buy them, not to reuse them. Oh, well, saving the planet will take some people longer than others.


Electric Vehicle Vanity  -  September 15, 2017

It seems like everyone who needs lottery tickets and cigarettes has a perfect excuse by stopping at the gas station. Electric vehicle drivers must be shameless for there is no excuse to be there. They are confident and undeterred by range anxiety. And they can show off their pride with an EV license plate.

Then I saw this car with an EV plate “vrooming” away, with not one but two exhaust pipes. Oh, yes, my EV plate peeve: hybrids, which I see merely as electric vehicles with “training wheels”, can have them, too.


Concerning Burning  -  August 15, 2017

Leaves and branches in a pile in my yard,
resting a while since raking was hard.
Next I prepare to do the burning,
but something about fire is quite concerning.
Why spend the time on so nice a day,
when effortlessly, they will decay?
Be it burning or decomposition,
each produces a greenhouse emission:
carbon dioxide or methane gas.
But here’s what made my burning urge pass.
Now I view rot as a better solution.
That is because combustion pollution
for leaves and for sticks
emits more carbon dioxide
by a factor of six!
So in my yard, off to the side,
a pile of brush -
it’s demise not to rush.
It shrinks away throughout the year.
Never with smoke, the air stays clear.


Ephemeralization. Ephem... what?  -  April 15, 2017

A term coined by Buckminster Fuller in 1938, it is profoundly relevant today. It refers to the trend of doing more with less until you can do everything with nothing. Encyclopedias, record collections, and photographic film are good examples of physical entities that have largely been ephemeralized into digital form.

As much a naturally occurring trend as a concept to be purposefully applied, ephemeralization and doing more with less goes hand in hand with conserving energy and resources. Now, with Earth Day just around the horizon, ask yourself, where in your life could you use more ephemeralization?


Light therapy energy  -  March 15, 2017

Spring is just around the corner, but here in New England, it only feels like it starts in May! After already spending so much energy on heat, light, and videogames throughout the winter, how much more energy should one spend on artificial light?

The answer is zero if you have good genes and are perfectly happy being depressed like me. But some people need light. Whether for mood, tanning or vitamin D, each one has a specific spectrum.

Currently, there is no commercially available artificial light that generates all three, nor does the winter sun. So, if you want to use artificial light, it will add roughly 3 kWh to your monthly electric bill.

Disclaimer: don’t just do what you read in a trendy website before talking to your health care provider.


Potato Energy  -  February 15, 2017

I wanted to experiment with making a baked potato in my Dutch oven but my Dutch oven was rusty and I had to season it first. Seasoning cast iron requires that you coat it with oil and put it in the oven for an hour. It came out perfectly, then, I put my potato in it and cooked on the stove top or an hour.

Well, if I am not an energy conservationist, I am at least energy conscious! To be even more energy self-conscious, I became drowsy while cooling the potato in my nice warm house, so, I put it in the fridge and reheated it in the microwave the next day. I promise my next baked potato will be a model of efficiency!


Happy Sustainability and the Angry Travel Ban  -  February 04, 2017

Recently, I was outraged by the US travel ban on 7 countries of muslin majority. I need not to exacerbate the subject by sharing my political views here, but I do think this subject touches the concept of sustainability.

No matter what is to be sustained, sustainability is about harmonious systems. It cannot be achieved by creating artificial barriers, physical or political, between “us” and “them”. So, we cannot sustain future generations if we don’t learn to cooperate, help each other in times of crisis, and exercise solidarity. We cannot sustain a culture of peace if we deem people undesirable because of their country of origin and religion.

I hope, with these few words, it will be understood that the concept of sustainability is not only about recycling and saving resources. It is also about the right for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without denying other people the same.


Closet Environmentalist  -  January 15, 2017

Gorp (aka trail mix). Just an outdoor convenient snack? No, I have consumed more gorp in my daily routine than in my all outdoor hiking trips (It’s not my wish but life getting in the way).

But my gorp doesn't come in an expensive puny pouch whose packaging weighs as much as its contents paradoxically marketed to earth crunchy conservationists. No, I mix gorp myself, paying close attention to the nutritional values, sugars, organic and GMO content, and origin of each of the individual ingredients. As with fossil fuels and batteries, my goal is to achieve maximum energy per pound and per dollar. Even the relative size of each ingredient is important because to most efficiently get those calories into my body, I “drink” it. Everything is dry, of course, but still “pours” easily from my sustainably manufactured stainless steel water bottle. I am proud of my gorp!

Now, I am at a new client getting their system up and there was so much to do that I skipped lunch and “drank” my gorp. "What do you have there?" one of them asked. While this could have spawned a 30-minute conversation on sustainability, I only said "Just a snack." I later thought, why was I such a wimp? Was it because the company environment looked so apathetic about environmental concerns that I got inhibited to converse about it? Perhaps I committed a new idiom – “Do as I do, though I don’t say.”


Holy Night Nervous Light  -  December 15, 2016

Of all days I thought I never will lament
were the tranquil glow of the white-hot filament

Enter now the LED light.
Though colors vivid
and wonderfully bright,
their 60 Hertz flickering
makes me livid!
It just isn’t right!

Marketed trustingly into the consumers hand
with circuitry and quality gone unplanned,
supplied in quantity from a third world land
and though LED efficiency is far superior,
their flickering frequency on my house’s exterior
annoys me so much, I declare them inferior!
Now so much illumination for holiday and leisure
Is fit for triggering a migraine or seizure!

Okay, Okay, I’ve looked away.
Steady light is my desire.
and plea to the maker, if I may,
to add a rectifier.
I, for one, am willing to pay.


Clean Coal Chump  -  November 15, 2016

My posture in a slump,
feeling down in the dump,
in my throat there's a lump,
perhaps it's coal.

Is it really great again,
as an economical goal,
to think now and then
of technological advancement
and ecological enhancement?

Now it's quite indefensible
to stand on your stump
and not tout something more sensible
than a bituminous clump!

So don't be so crass
and a pain in the rump,
new President...


Junk Mail Forever  -  October 15, 2016

What do we do to stop junk mail from filling our mailboxes? I have diligently called and emailed the senders, asking them, "Please help save the Earth and stop sending unsolicited mail to my home!".

So far, I have realized that when I email them, nothing happens. When I call, the person who answers is usually nice and reassures me that they will remove my name from their Do-Not-Mail list.

The national Do-Not-Call policy is well-known but I had never known that companies develop their own Do-Not-Mail lists. It still takes several calls to permanently get off their Do-Not-Mail lists and some companies still continued to send their mail for well over a year.

Now, one of my last calls has left me dumbfounded. The person who answered said that I CANNOT get off their Do-Not-Mail list because the mail is sent to my address and not to my name (it shows "Preferred Customer" as the addressee). I said that when I get off the Do-Not-Call list, it is my number that gets off, not my name, so, it should be the same for a mailing address. I didn't win and continue to receive this big company's solicitation mail every other week! Oh, well, at least, they don't make any false claims of being environmentally friendly.


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