The easy way to start saving energy and water at home

Presidents' Eco-Musings

Original content by Dwight Hydropower, Jimmy Charger and Ronald Regen

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.


I'm Picking Out A Thermos For You  -  September 15, 2016

A few weeks ago, I went hiking in the woods and met the president of a sustainable start-up company. As someone who began looking at his map and compass still within view of the parking lot, I figured he was not an outdoorsy type.

When he pulled bottled water from his backpack, he immediately acknowledged that bottled water is one of the greatest evils on the planet. He said he would prefer to buy a thermos. Since he is not a plain water type of guy, I wonder what would be greener in his case, to purchase a thermos that would be rarely used or to stick to the conveniently available bottled water?


Water Saving Success  -  August 15, 2016

My water bill was 21% lower this quarter which I credit to my water saving toilet and aerators from Niagara Conservation. Of course I had done some rough calculations merely to convince myself that buying such products would be justified, so the savings came as no surprise. In fact, I already bought two more Niagara Stealth toilets to install this quarter. These are going into a multifamily dwelling where water use is quite high, so the return on investment will come quickly.

Now, my conundrums: in another town where they charge a minimum metering fee, which I pay at every billing cycle because my water use never exceeds it, should I really justify saving water only if it also results in saving money?

The 1.6 GPF toilets that I’m replacing are still perfectly useable. Should I allow them to be reused and waste twice the amount of water as the 0.8 GPF Niagara? Or should I add them to the landfill? At an individual level, the answer seems quite straightforward, but what if the entire world replaces their toilets since water is considered the most precious resource on Earth?


Superior Soda  -  July 15, 2016

It’s been hot and I wanted a soft drink, but then I felt unhealthy. I bought plain seltzer and added juice concentrate, because I am not wealthy.

I needed to find a place to store all the empty bottles. I could make my own with CO2 but the machinery is too much money. But I found a soda charger that uses little cartridges that can be recycled with steel and consume much less space.

It was worth the investment, for lessening my carbon footprint. How good I feel that there is much less plastic in my face!


Tricked By The Hand Drier  -  June 15, 2016

I washed my hands in the restroom, then, looked around for a means to dry them. I saw what looked like the familiar stainless steel built-into-the-wall tri-fold paper towel dispenser. Though I didn't see the edge of the next paper towel hanging down, I did see what looked like a sensor.

I thought, "Wow! Could it really be that, with modern technology and advanced electronics, a team of engineers has figured out how to automatically dispense a tri-fold paper towel?"

Now, with all that anticipation and excitement, I placed my hand deliberately, yet cautiously, under the sensor and, then... Success, a noise! But wait, oh, no! No, no, not that! The dispenser was not there to offer me a paper towel at all. It was actually an air blower trying to dry my hands. Oh, well, it is still an innovative design.


The Entropy of Exercise  -  May 15, 2016

Machinery rotating, reciprocating, conveying,
meeting production for the company that’s paying.
The doohickey, gigglepot and thingamabob -
I see them all at a factory job.

Whizzing, rolling, and things that zoom -
I see them also in the exercise room.

But a machine as a thermodynamic system, you see,
never can reach 100 percent efficiency.
and that not contributing productively as meant
is known as entropy, usually in the form of heat that is spent.

People running, and stair climbing in-place,
panting and grunting with sweat on their face,
these fitness enthusiasts aren’t producing at all.
Their plugged-in machines use energy from the wall.

Then to further increase the energy consumed,
any thermodynamic output that bloomed
is carried away by the air conditioning.
Though I must digress, I’m not petitioning.

About being healthy, what’s said is fair:
It is less taxing on systems of healthcare.
But don’t go to the gym just because it’s a trend,
so too is the effort of making mother nature your friend.


Earth Day Footprint  -  April 22, 2016

A special entry on Earth Day!

I heard no Earth Day well wishers, but I know what day it is and become much more sensitized to my ecological footprint.

This Earth Day was particularly challenging since I was catching a flight and flying is known to have the largest footprint by far. However, I felt redeemed when I learned that individuals who do everything perfectly in mother nature's eyes have also been the most likely to fly for vacation. (See our upcoming article in Curiosities).

At least, everything I needed for a week fit into a minimal volume—my carry-on luggage. This included my favorite lightest-weight and most space-efficient clothing which, at home, would also require less space and less water and energy to wash and dry.

The laptop computer was set to run longest on battery power, which also allows it to conserve energy. Toiletry products and snacks were packed as rations and not as extra stuff just to have around and throw away when it expires because I never consumed it. And with worsening baggage restrictions and customer satisfaction, I just become better. Alas, it's not about me, it's about our Earth.


Toilets Toilets Everywhere But One Ought Stop And Think  -  April 15, 2016

The old toilet tank cracked. Off toilet shopping, my first stop was the internet. I was overwhelmed with choices. Actually, I became quite underwhelmed after eliminating all the features I didn't care about.

Looking at toilets with 1.28 GPF (gallons per flush) for around $100, I felt, somehow, that I was only marginally improving my water savings from the old 1.6 GPF. I then found a toilet made by a Niagara Conservation that I had never heard of and consumed only 0.8 GPF for $150.

With some very rough math for a family of five, I calculated that 0.8 GPF would actually save about $150 within 6 months compared to 1.6 GPF. I wanted one fast. I checked where to buy and one Home Depot near me had three. To my disappointment, there was none when I went there. The manager said, “Those Niagaras just fly off the shelves. Contractors come in here every week and buy several at a time."

I ordered one though, it arrived with the following week’s inventory, and I am very glad to have found it!


Automatic Door Shame  -  March 15, 2016

At the strip mall walking past a store,
did something unintentional I've done before,
triggered the sensor of the automatic door.
It opened for me and no one more.

The consumption of energy swung it wide,
climate controlled air spilled outside!
Would I be a thief for not going inside?

The guilt, the shame,
the waste, the blame.

So I played cool, turned quick to remedy my sin,
like a game of poker face I thought I could win.
The clerk said "Good afternoon, what brings you in?"


Hand Driers  -  February 15, 2016

Had lunch out. Used the restroom at a restaurant. Now I know why hand air driers save energy--they make me not want to use them. Not only did they not dry my hands, I also couldn't blow my nose with it either.


Compulsive Highlighting  -  January 15, 2016

I was fiddling with a highlighter while my mind was wandering around. So much plastic compared to ink but, hooray, I found bottled highlighter refill ink! How fitting that the only suppliers are Germany and Japan, two countries that have been way ahead in recycling.


Drink Half A Gallon A Day But Not This Way  -  December 15, 2015

Recently, I was at my doctor's office and cringed at the receptionist as I wrote this muse:

Each time she got up
took another cup
filled far below the lip
sat down to sip
then threw in the trash
oblivious to the waste
of her disposable stash.


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