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Climate Hustle

Climate Solutions by Rob Painting

Posted on 9 July 2011 by Rob Painting

After writing the blog post Throwing Down the Gauntlet, 'Actually Thoughtful' suggested SkS authors/contributors write about what personal measures they've taken in regard to climate change, and what steps readers could take. This is my response.

Nobody likes a hypocrite    

From time to time we get the odd comment here, suggesting that we (SkS contributors) are hypocrites; that we're using electricity and consumer goods that generate greenhouse gases and that we should be living in caves. These silly comments always give me a laugh, how do they know I'm not living in a cave running my recycled computer off a homemade exercycle Gilligan's Island-style?

More seriously though, it does raise an issue about perceptions of hypocrisy. It's only natural to scoff when watching a TV segment about obesity and type 2 diabetes, only for the camera to switch to an interview with the health spokesperson doling out healthy eating and exercise advice, but who happens to be obese themselves! Well I can assure you that while no 'eco-saint', I don't dig hypocrisy either. Here's a sample of the measures my wife and I have taken; some simple, some not so :

  • Cleared our property (and adjacent ones too) of invasive exotic trees, thereby allowing native fruit-bearing trees to gain a foothold and form a canopy. It's taken over 10 years, but we're now on top of it, and the small plot now has a healthy population of native birds. My neighbours tell me they can hear a Kiwi calling at night from somewhere on our place, but I must say I've never heard it.
  • Grow most of our own fruit and veggies (lettuce, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, shallots, beetroot, potatoes, beans, peas, tomatoes, cucumber, pumpkin, gherkins, strawberries, peaches, feijoa, lemons, limes, mandarins, olives, tamarillo, nectarines, passionfruit, plums, apples, parsley, coriander, rosemary, dill). All spray-free although this does entail a bit of work.
  • Tomatoes are frozen, bottled, made into: tomato relish, tomato salsa, tomato sauce. Gherkins are pickled with dill then bottled. Beetroot are pickled & bottled too. Peaches are made into chutney. Limes and lemons made into syrup, for drinks. Limes also turned into lime marmalade, along with grapefruit from a neighbour's place.   
  • When our garden isn't producing enough, we buy local produce from our Farmers Market. This cuts out the emissions involved in long distance transport. It also has the added benefit of being predominately organically grown, or at the vey least spray free.
  • Don't buy fish from the supermarket. A lot of it is not sustainably managed, despite fishing industry claims (I can speak from personal experience here). Easy for me to say, of course, I don't have to paddle very far in my kayak to catch dinner. This won't be an option for many.
  • Installed energy efficient lighting throughout our house.
  • Switch off appliances on standby. It annoys me how every new device has to light up like the bridge of the USS Enterprise, when on standby mode.
  • Use soapnuts for our laundry washing, this cuts down on phosphate getting flushed into the local environment. Veeeery bad for waterways as it encourages algal growth and de-oxygenation. Soapnuts are fine for general use, but are hopeless on sweaty running/gyms clothes or heavily soiled clothing. My wife has some natural concoction for those.
  • Don't use a clothes dryer. All washing is dried naturally (despite the fact that we live in a very wet climate).
  • Use instantaneous (on demand) gas hot water heating system, rather than an electric hot water 'boiler' which must constantly heated. My showers generally take about a minute, and in summer I take cold showers, to reduce gas consumption.
  • Use a cloth bag for grocery items at the supermarket. Sadly plastic shopping bags have not been phased out here in New Zealand.
  • Buy locally made products where possible.
  • Shop at second-hand clothing stores (although not exclusively) and furniture. Often a bit of re-gluing, a sand and a couple of coats of furniture oil, or varnish, are all that are required to make coffee tables and chairs 'new' again. Same for lounge suites, some new foam squabs and upholstery and she's done.
  • Our primary means of transport is a pregnant skateboard, one of those under-powered little granny mobiles. The petrol engine is less than 1000cc, but it doesn't matter, I drive within the speed limit anyway. I get the odd person, whom I know, giving me a bit of stick about driving like a granny, but it's like water off a duck's back.
  • Built my own solar powered ventilation system for our house. It's still a work in progress - I want to add a heat exchanger, but haven't found any suitable scrap that can be turned into one yet.
  • I'm planning to build a wind generator and a micro-hydro unit, but have sort of dragged my feet because of the work involved, and some logistical challenges. I've reconfigured an old direct drive washing machine motor to output 12 volts, but that's as far as I've got.
  • We're planning to install solar PV panels in the next couple of years too. Long-term we want to get totally off the grid.
  • We don't use air travel. Haven't been overseas for about 12 years, and haven't been on a plane since. Not a biggie for me, but I understand air travel is unavoidable for those whose jobs depend upon it.

Obviously not all these measures are strictly climate-related, but it makes sense to consider the big picture; damaged forests, oceans and waterways will make it increasingly harder for humanity to feed itself. Self-interest sometimes means adopting a long-term view.

What can you do?

If there's one thing I would ask, is that readers not buy any consumer item which contains palm oil. It will require quite a bit of research because if your government is anything like New Zealand's, it is probably steadfastly refusing to enforce labelling of palm oil products. No doubt this is due to lobbying by manufacturers concerned at the financial implications. Palm oil is usually hidden in the product's ingredient list as 'vegetable oil', or 'vegetable fat'. Here's some palm oil naughties - avoid this stuff like the plague.

What's palm oil got to do with global warming?  Quite a lot actually. As well as killing lots of wildlife, and displacing indigenous people in the tropical rainforests (mainly Indonesia and Malaysia), the clearing of trees for palm oil plantations, and the drying of peat bogs on which they grow, is adding a lot of CO2 to the atmosphere. So by making use of Google and applying some discretion at the supermarket, individuals can make a difference. As an additional bonus you won't be eating that highly refined and processed crap that passes for food nowadays. Stave off type 2 diabetes - it's a win-win! 

Individual action isn't enough 

All this talk of individual efforts is fine and dandy, but the reality is that in order for civilization to continue, we require an effort which surpasses that of the World War II mobilization. We have to rapidly de-carbonize our global economy, or the outcome will be bleak. It seems to me that a straight-forward carbon tax is the best way to stimulate movement on this. The alternative cap and trade proposal is just an invitation for exploitation by the banking industry and speculators, whose sole interest is to make a much money as possible while providing no tangible benefit - as always. The Kyoto Protocol did nothing to curb greenhouse gas emssions so why do we think carbon trading will be different this time around?

As for alarmist "skeptic" claims about carbon taxes destroying the world economy, well we heard that one from the slave owners, when moves were afoot to abolish slavery in the 18th century! And the last go-around was when the banning of CFCs, to protect the ozone layer was suggested. Not surprisingly, global financial collapse didn't occur then either. In fact there is one guarantee of financial collapse: business-as-usual. We know the world's resources aren't infinite, so it's about time we started acting like we know. Very soon would be nice.

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Comments 1 to 40:

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank, you. Yes, Yes, Yes.

    No palm oil ... evah. And cap'n'trade ... boo, hiss.

    Anyone who's just lived through the latest economic shemozzle wrought by the mysterious machinations of the all-knowing, all-powerful markets must at least think twice before handing control over yet another money-spinner into the far-too-willing hands of traders.

    If anyone thinks that carbon is the basic essential for life, they should have a long, hard look at the way the markets in food staples 'work' when times are tough. It's not pretty.
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  2. All good things, well done.

    However, for most domestic situations the greatest use of carbon is for heating or cooling. I'm not really familiar with the New Zealand climate but imagine this is true for heating on the South Island but maybe only for cooling in particularly badly designed houses in the north. New Zealanders do have a reputation for neither insulating nor heating their houses (which sort of cancel out) but still it's probably the most important area to address.

    I agree that individual action is not enough. You mention long term aspirations to be off the grid. I have the same ideas in the shorter term while being fully aware that off-grid is far from the optimal means of have a low-carbon comfortable life. It is, however, about the best option for somebody who finds themselves in a society which doesn't seem interested in taking carbon emission reduction at all seriously. Unless there's a major change in society's approach anything we do individually will not be much more than a symbolic gesture but it doesn't follow that it's not a gesture worth making.
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  3. AFAIK all the products I have come across in the UK list palm oil as an ingredient if it is in the product, although toiletries will probably say something like 'sodium palmate' or similar. Can be difficult to avoid it unless you look carefully, not many mainstream products use alternatives.
    Some soaps from 'green' retailers use olive oil.
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  4. I like the environmental initiative (item 1) and would also suggest to those with some room that they can create both a native forest area and a native savannah. Also you said you are in a moist area, but those of us in drier areas can capture our runoff, keep some in permanent pools for the wildlife and recharge the groundwater with the rest (also mitigate the harm from excessive rainfall). The drier versus dryer is an easy choice for me, air dried laundry is the only way to go in my climate.

    As for being on or off the grid: I can appreciate the desire to be off the "stupid" grid. But we have any potential of using "excess' power productively, or supply extra power ourselves, then we should be on the smart grid.
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  5. Sounds like living ones values! That's great.

    Here's one of many other ideas.... cooperative buyers' clubs for bulk/whole foods, if there's a distributor in your area that will do business with you. In my old city we had a group that bought at wholesale prices just like the storefront businesses, except the group had to order in large volumes and that required several families' commitment. But that was ok, because what family really needs 25 lbs of kidney beans at one time?

    The catalogue was available in spreadsheet format, so the group had an "order night" that was a mass negotiation, as families signed up for portions of the large bags, until we had rounded out an order, and folks paid the treasurer up front, who then placed the order. On delivery day volunteers broke up the bundles according to the order sheet.

    Takes a bit of time, but greatly reduced packaging and shipping costs of smaller quantities, really stretched the grocery dollar, and built great community (as did the semi monthly coop potlucks).


    As for being off the grid, I too like the emotional appeal, but I think I've seen articles saying you get more anti-globalwarming bang for buck by being plugged in, because end-user generation can (A) help with grid stabilization and (B) preventing transmission losses due to voltage drop. I probably have that wrong.
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  6. The much discussed essay by Derrick Jensen, Forget Shorter Showers seems appropriate here.

    Personal Change does not = political change.

    The implications of his essay are that we need to take direct action to stop those who kill the planet, just changing our own behavior is woefully inadequate, and worse, it fulfills the delusion that we can consume our way to preventing ecocide.
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  7. I disagree with AL@6 personal change is a fundamental step in changing behaviour on a wider scale, including political opinions. You have to make personal changes in order to influence others. It is a part of the education process and how communities change. From personal change you can expand it to educating groups and communities.

    In fact taking political action without making personal change has negative outcomes and hypocritical.
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  8. "Don't use a clothes dryer. All washing is dried naturally (despite the fact that we live in a very wet climate)."

    A good compromise here is a 'spin dryer'. These work on the same principle as the final spin cycle on a washing machine... pull the water out of the clothes via 'centripetal force'. They just spin faster and thus do a much better job. Takes just a couple of minutes and gets most clothes nearly dry.

    Obviously this would still use more power than just letting them air dry, but it is nothing compared to a heat dryer... and you could always abort the washing machine spin cycle to use the spin dryer exclusively and thus come out ahead on power use.
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  9. PaulD,

    Personal change is crucial, i agree. The point was that personal change on its own does not = political change. And only radical political change will stop the destruction. My own experience is that personal changes at best might help me survive ecocide for a time, but it will not stop ecocide. I still get up and go to work and partake daily in this culture no matter my personal choices. People have been doing the personal change thing for decades and it has not stopped the problem from getting worse, way worse.

    Let not kid ourselves into thinking the systems of power and the infrastructure they use are going to go away because i compost, buy locally produced foods, garden, and ride my bike. All around me are people who are only thinking about their next snowmobile and ATV, while the corporations and government are wondering where to put the nuclear plant that will power the tar sands.

    I could move out to the woods and totally detach myself from this culture (if i had the skill to do that :) ), but the culture would still go on its destructive path without me.

    DJ is not saying "no" to personal change, building communities of like minded people, and inspiring/educating others, he is saying that this is not enough. We also need to be politically active and most importantly, willing to take direct action against those who actively kill the planet.
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  10. AL, PaulD, throbgoblin's latest makes an appropriate observation on the interaction of personal and political:
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  11. Tom,

    Thanks for that.
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  12. AL@9
    "People have been doing the personal change thing for decades and it has not stopped the problem from getting worse, way worse."

    People have been taking action in an attempt to change politics for decades and you still have the same left and right political ideologies manipulating peoples lives!

    There is also no guarantee that anyone can stop the problem from getting worse. The only thing that you can do is educate people and do your best and hope that it is enough.

    Education in this context is quite broad. The reality is (and I contradict you here) that quite a lot has been been done, more than many people would have thought possible 5 or 10 years ago.

    I remember a few years ago in the UK that even eco-friendly people didn't know how to work out carbon footprints or emissions of cars and other products. Now statistics are available from manufacturers and government every year.
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  13. Paul D,

    I have not seen anybody take action to move us beyond the left/right political spectrum. I have, however, seen people take direct action to win labor rights, to win human rights, to win minority rights, to desegregate buses and schools, to defeat NAZI's, to defeat the british, etc... these actions have been successful.

    I think we agree on the point that there is certainly more information available to people, and there is certainly more and more science we can rely on to help us understand and educate others. But from what i can tell so far this has resulted only in a small amount of people making personal change and corporations using "green washing" to convince us to consume our way to a healthy planet. (an absurd notion, IMO). Meanwhile, emissions are higher than ever and habitat destruction continues unabated.
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  14. AL@13
    "I have, however, seen people take direct action to win labor rights..."

    Most of that has not been because of direct action, most of it has been because of a change in public opinion through education and better understanding. A lot of direct action has been taken on other issues and largely failed, which is why change in attitudes is more important. Maybe direct action can help, but it is just as likely generate negative opinions which are an embarrassment to a wider audience.

    Also the things you are talking about have nothing at all to do with environmental issues. In the UK we never had segregation in modern times, in fact most Brits were pretty appalled by American race attitudes during WWII.

    I don't think you should assume American political problems today are duplicated world wide. If Americans feel they need to take direct action that is their problem and a symptom of American politics today.
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  15. Paul D,

    We will just disagree on how effective change happens i guess. My own feeling is that it is not one or the other. An effective resistance movement has to contain elements of both. Currently the mainstream environmental movement has really failed because it it has focused primarily on trying to convince people to make personal change. (see Al Gore movie.)

    The other issue i take with relying only on personal change and educating others is that it is not clear how much time we have to actually change the direction of this culture. In addition, we are also up against corporate funding of disinformation that has been so successful in crafting public opinion to accept the status-quo and deny there is even a problem. Our job is much harder and we have way less power to influence. It is a very dire situation.

    BTW, i'm not in America, and direct action is a global tradition that spans the globe through all of history, and has often (not always) been successful in making positive change. It's not at all clear to me why the killing of the biosphere should not warrant the same sort of response.

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  16. Al, and all.....

    Personal? Political? I've read a lot of Gandhi's writings on that subject. He felt that whereas soldiers have to train in weapons and physical fitness, it was even more essential for anyone doing his form of 'nonviolence' to train up their heart/mind/spirit/instincts/discipline et cetera. I embrace that view. If folks skip that step, at best they can hope to change the daily flavor of trouble. To really really solve the root cause of the problem, the answers are extremely personal on a daily basis, and occasionally political on a broader one.

    Some years ago I was at a bike protest against Gulf War #1, and during the open mic someone asked the large crowd for a show of hands who had driven their bikes on their car to the rally. More than half the hands went up, and I concluded the event was a lifestyle opportunity, not Gandhian direct action. Here's a couple favorites:
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  17. So here's the list of things I've been doing for the last 10 years now. In no particular order.

    1) Installed a ground-source heat pump.
    2) Bought and turned over 90 acres of poor quality farm land to indigenous woodland (50,000 trees planted).
    3) Totally stopped flying.
    4) Put in extensive insulation to high standards.
    5) Installed 11sq metres of solar thermal panels.
    6) Installed heat-recovery ventilation (ie using a heat exchanger).
    7) Installed a wood-burning stove.
    8) Installed 4kW of PV panels.
    9) Installed a rain water collection system.
    10) Built a network of raised veg beds and a glass house so we can grow our own food.
    11) Built a wood shed for storing and drying firewood.
    12) Changed my car to the smallest and most fuel efficient one we can manage with (it has averaged 65mpg since I bought it).
    13) Brought up my sons to use nothing but bicycle transport.
    14) When changing them, ensured that all my household goods are as energy-efficient as possible (cfl/led lighting, LED TV, etc. -- and no tumble dryers!).

    Basically in everything we've done we've gone for the low carbon, low energy option. I've also demonstrated to family, friends and neighbours how to go green -- and that it matters. A number of them are now being influenced by my approach. I've also become a local councillor so I can extend my sphere of influence.

    Is it enough? No, we've got to go much further -- but that is only possible if we do it together. It's the collective mind set that has to change and we can do our bit to set a good example.

    I suppose, finally, I should add that doing all this has been really satisfying and enjoyable.
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  18. East coast NSW Australia. Old post-WWII, uninsulated weatherboard house.

    So far this (southern) winter I have not used any form of artificial heating at all. Zero. Inside temperature has been as low as 9degC during daytime, but rising to as much as 20degC in sunroom/office. Guess where I am right now? :)

    I have simply dressed appropriately for the conditions, and warmed ME rather than the AIR around me.

    Two layers all over, inner layer being thermal underwear (only put on after sundown); fleece pullover and fleece jacket on top; thick socks and warm boots on feet, cap or beanie to prevent heat loss through head. Blanket over legs while resting or watching the giggle box.

    Saves 2-4kW/day; up to 480kW per quarter; 1.8 tonnesCO2/annum or up to Au$320 saved off bill.

    Shower every second or third day, merely changing underclothes in the interim days (unless performing hard physical labour). Saves around 23kL per annum of potable water; reduces gas consumption (instantaneous) to less than 1 x 45kg cylinder (2300MJ) per annum, saving (at 68gCO2/MJ nat gas) around 300 kgCO2/annum.

    Flush loo twice daily - "if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down". Saves 9L/flush or around 50L/day, say 18kL/annum of potable water.

    Use remote-switched 'standby-power-savers' to minimise unecessary power consumption from computers and entertainment devices, otherwise all but fridge off at wall.

    All lighting low consumption fluoros or CFLs, single lamp per room. At night, only one light on at a time.

    Swapped (very) old and inefficient fridge + separate freezer for modern 3-star 406kW/annum fridge/freezer unit.
    Saved around 3kW/day, or 1100kW/annum, or 1.1 tonnesCO2/annum, or Au$240/annum off the bills.

    But with 2kW grid-tie solar PV earning 60c/kW gross feed-in-tariff this saving further generated $657/annum in revenue, paying off the fridge in less than two years.

    Total PV generation (aver 9kW/day/annum) is approx 3200kW/annum, or Au$1920 in revenue (till July 1 2017, anyway). Current surplus/credit is $280 owed to me by the retailer. Buying gas from the same retailer effectively means that gas is free as well, as the 'solar credit' is taken off the TOTAL bill, which includes any gas purchased.

    Average daily consumption under 4.5kW.

    Compared to national average of around 15kW/day for a similar household, thus saving (at 950gCO2/kW from coal-fired gen) around 3.6 tonnes of CO2 per annum.

    Live regional, commute local, average around 200km/week, down from 1000km/wk when living in metro Sydney and commuting to full time job, saving about 5 tonnes of CO2/annum.

    I fly seldom, but if I have to (or choose to for holidays) I offset each flight. Only one flight O/S in past 6 years, and that only to New Zealand. One internal flight SYD-HOB in past 6 years.

    Grow some food items, but don't have space to do more, so buy from local growers. Bottle, preserve or make jam from any surplus fruit and veg I can get hold of. My mulberry conserve is famous among friends and family. :)

    Educate others via volunteer capacity as 'Sustainability Consultant' on Council and TAFE courses in local region.

    Future plans include:
    - install insulation in roof space and under floors
    - installation of wood-burning stove (windfall wood is available for local collection from forestry operations, making any wood burned effectively oxygen producing and CO2 negative, due to replanting by forestry which over-offsets losses [CSIRO figures].
    - increasing size of solar PV array (by 2017 will need to increase by at least 100% in order to offset losses from end of feed-in tariff and compensate for increase in grid power price)
    - install underground rainwater harvesting tanks (currently not cost effective based on existing low consumption and high cost of installation; desirable but not essential)
    - plant more food-producing trees and better utilise on-site growing areas (currently lawn)
    - install composting toilet (unofficially, as Council will not allow it, but will enable recycling of on-site produced human waste as fertilizer for gardens)
    - eat more vegetarian food and less meat to further reduce impact on environment and climate.

    And, like John Russell (above) have found it thoroughly enjoyable. I'm pleased to be able to do my bit but, frankly, have little hope for the majority of global population. Self-interest and comfort 'rule' I'm afraid, but every little bit - and every example - helps to win the 'hearts and minds'.
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  19. Have a very low carbon print and as said it is more fun than hardship.

    However all of the above says that individual action isn't enough, however if your communicating environmental change and not doing anything then no one will listen for a second and your words will undermine any confidience people have in the whole issue.

    Carbon pricing will most likely merely disadvantage those who are have nots even more.

    What is needed is an inherent understanding that not using carbon is the most self preserving thing to do for an individual, a street, a town, a nation, the world, for then people might act out of deep motivation rather than forced leglisation which if the war on drugs is any barometer will totaly fail.

    For the record,

    Haven't got a car, don't fly, grow as much veg and fruit as possible, have solar hot water, collect rain water, have no fridge, use no toxic chemicals, only buy organic local or organic fair trade, dry all washing naturally, use eco-balls for washing, buy all clothes from charity, cook of log range in winter and have induction low energy hob, shower less frequently, harvest water for flushing toilet, use as little water as possible, have fully thermally renvoated my house with hemp and lime insulating render which is carbon negative, insulated loft with recycled paper insulation, electricity is from renewable supplier, only used 800-900Kwh a year for the last 5years, heat our home with logs and only use 3m3 a year, follow a none meat, none GM, none soya, none palm oil, and dairy free diet, get some food from part of community supported agriculture scheme, reuse and then recycle everything we can and am looking to purchase land to convert for woodland and food production.

    Have no chance of having any other useful renewables, little wind, nowhere near enough sun to justify PV with the very serious environmental impacts making PV has and no chance of hydro.

    Life quality has improved throughout changing as we used to be frequent flyers, have 2 cars and shopped for what we wanted, it has taken only 5-6year to change and in overall assessment it has been challenging but interesting and fun.
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  20. All the efforts readers are making are fantastic! Hat's off to ya!. One thing stood out for me though:

    Ranyl - how do you make do without a fridge?
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  21. Rob@20
    "Actually you can make a 'fridge' or 'cooler' with two plant pots, some sand, a cloth and some water.
    One pot has to be bigger than the other. You place the smaller pot in the larger one and fill the gap with the sand (or similar material). Damp the sand between the two pots with water and place the food inside the inner smaller pot. Then place the damp cloth over the top. The evaporating water keeps the contents cool.
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  22. African style eh? Don't expect my wife would be too keen on that idea.
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  23. Re #20, I had the same question, do you drink your beer warm? Are you sure you are from Australia? On a previous thread I posted my electric bill of $30/month. Turns out that was for 9 kWh per day, so my electricity (rural Virginia) is very very cheap. My highest usage was last summer at 14 kWh per day average since it was so ridiculously hot. Total for year: 3000 kWh. Obviously I should do better.
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  24. It is interesting how different people from around the world are doing very similar things. Of the pool of advice given here I don't think I can add a lot.
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  25. Actually there is some advice from me.

    1. Spend some time when shopping, to buy products with packaging that is recyclable, once you get in the habit, you can cut waste down a lot. This has to be combined with buying local/organic etc. where possible.

    2. Take a bag with you to shops and don't accept disposable carrier bags that are offered (many are just advertising the shop in any case).

    3. Cycle more. Actually bicycle sells in the UK have gone up significantly and the increase in the number of people cycling is noticeable.

    4. Make do with what you have and repair anything if you can. Reuse if possible. Don't be drawn into any fads and trends, wait until what you have can no longer be used.
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  26. Paul D @ 21 - I did, at one point, consider building an outdoor chiller, or coolstore, for our cheese (my wife makes all our cheese) but my wife wasn't too keen on having to traipse outside to bathe the cheese in brine, which is part of the cheese-making process we employ.

    The plan was similar to your simple evaporative cooler. The idea was to use a home-built ram pump to bring the water up to the chiller location and let the evaporative process act as the coolant. The overflow would then flow down into our garden water tanks, and overflow from that was to directed back into the stream.
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  27. More Radical................Whoever compiles the master list of all possibilities (Has any website started doing it?) might helpfully group the more radical,in terms of comfort and/or convenience, separately. So they can be more easily scanned, and passed over, by those looking for a reasonable lifestyle. Yet, they are there for the willing.

    Who...............Obviously, living solo is a big advantage. Then the inevitable irritations with the lifestyle won't complicate a living-together relationship.
    An enjoyment of camping is an asset,so one can realize that what is gained can be worth the discomfort.

    When...............Having other places to spend one's time, and access to a gym's shower facilities, is an obvious advantage. When in college some already do this to escape their communal living situations.
    The available possibilities will sometimes be limited by how long someone plans to live in that area. As with other types of customized dream homes, the decision to settle down comes first.

    Other...............There may be other reasons in addition to the reduction in carbon emissions. One might be that it may make possible the occupation of that cabin in the woods, or of an otherwise desirable apartment that has substandard utilities.
    Or, there may be a good use for the money that's saved.

    Example...............Turning off the 40 gallon hot water heater year round has become more practicable with the availibility of body wash for a shower.
    Soap up with cold water + body wash + heated water in a tall bicycle water bottle. Lathering up with hand soap while you're wet and cold in an unheated bathroom is just too prolonged and too grim.
    Rinse Off with cold water + heated water in four 1/2 gallon plastic milk bottles.
    Will also have to add boiling water to the water used for washing one's hair at the sink, and soaking the dirty dishes.
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  28. How about a solar shower??

    Designed for camping and military use, but can be used in the summer as an alternative to the usual powered shower.
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  29. Paul D, how about a straight forward solar hot water system instead - or are only hair shirts green enough?
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  30. Ranyl - how do you make do without a fridge?

    Have no dairy or meat and can't drink alcohol and live in moderate climate, so not really a problem.

    Keep stuff in larder like room on the north side of the house with no window. Most things keep for a reasonable while especially in winter.

    An evaporation fridge would keep things cool as well, and in hot climates evaporative cooling was traditionally utilised and a fridge is a big power user.
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  31. @Ed Davies,

    New Zealanders don't heat their homes? Planning on moving to NZ from South Carolina early next year. Should I stock up on really warm clothing?
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  32. John Russell - awesome list. Where do you live?
    In the discussion so far regarding personal vs political, I haven't seen any explicit statement that we all are, personally, political.

    When elections roll around and a politician puts forward a pro-PV plan; my neighbor the extreme right winger (with the PV panels) is going to be able to give the politician a serious look - afterall - PV CAN'T be crazy if my right wing neighbor ALREADY has it, right?

    Personal action changes each of us, in small to large ways (I think John Russell and Ranyl said as much in their posts of relatively major changes in how the power their lives).

    Change people = a changed electorate. Which changes policies.

    I would enjoy living in a world where rational policies are chosen for rational reasons. But I am stuck on this one.

    The strategy of "do the science and policy makers will grasp the severity of the situation and act pro-actively to save humanity from the very dire outcomes currently anticipated" has FAILED. It is not happening (I am somewhat US centric, but the US is still the worst offender on a per capita basis, so it is hopefully an OK centricsm).

    What is the next plan? Gorilla action. Because personal action also changes those around you. A rudimentary understanding of the Operating System of humanity is necessary here - we are sheeple. We DO look to see what so-and-so is doing. The strategy is to dramatically increase the percentage of so-and-sos who have taken action (preferably visible action that you brag about endlessly).

    As near as I can tell, this is the best/fastest path to changing the current ruinous path that we are on.

    Also, there is much talk about achieving grid parity for PV and wind. And it is well known that PV efficiency increases as a function of installed capacity (not that the installation increases the efficiency mind you). So those that are taking action now are literally priming the pump for the zero carbon economy (and it is necessary to overcome the chorus of naysayers (some of whom are relatively well-meaning)).

    Sheeple - its not a bug, its a feature.
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  33. Trueofvoice - central heating and double glazing are rare. Insulation levels are low (estimated that 600,000 home are uninsulated period in a country of 4m). Talking to visitors, we do indeed live differently, wearing warmer clothes. However, except in Central Otago and mid North Island, it doesnt get that cold. Winter frosts except in upper quarter yes, but seldom below zero. Normally people heat one or two rooms (wood burners often, but heat pumps are making a big impact).
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  34. Should also ask you what part of NZ you are moving to? Auckland has mangroves and thinks 5 deg C is freezing. From Invercargill, there is nothing between you and Antarctica and 28 deg C would seem like the end of the world.
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  35. TrueOfVoice said:
    "Should I stock up on really warm clothing?"

    The object of heating is to keep the human body at a temperature at which it can happily survive.

    So the question is, what is the most efficient way of doing that? I don't have central heating (I live in the UK) and these days tend to turn the thermostat down in the winter and wear more layers of clothing.

    The biggest problem tends to be others expectations, most buildings are heated in the UK with the assumption that people wear one layer of thin clothing, jumping out of their heated car into a heated building. Which means if you go out of your home and walk to a shop with about 6 layers of clothing on, you break out in a sweat when in the shop for to long.

    So the inefficiency of others and the legislation that says the working place must be a minimum temperature, means those that want to cut back are hindered.
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  36. Been lurking for several years, first post.

    My wife and I have been trying to live a sustainable life since the early 70s. In 1987, we moved to 10 acres in western Kentucky and built our passive solar home. Winter heat is provided with a combination of passive solar and wood heat. We do use summer AC, but we installed the highest SEER unit we could and keep thermostat set at 78 F (humidity here is a much bigger problem than the heat itself).

    Keep our driving to a minimum (less than 6000 miles last year), and hope to buy an EV in the next couple of years.

    Clothes drying uses a solar powered dryer (100' of cotton rope). Replaced all lights with CFLs. When an appliance dies we replace with the most energy efficient model we can.

    Other than gasoline for the car, all of our purchased energy is electric. Our average usage, year round, is 17KwH per day. I'm working on a few other projects to cut that even more.

    I do have one question for the group. When we moved to our 10 acres, the land was used for agriculture (corn and hay). We have spent the last 20+ years restoring the land to native, deciduous forest.

    Simply for my own curiousity, does anyone know how I might estimate approximately how much carbon we have captured over the years with our (small) reforestation project and how much additional carbon we capture each year? I like to think that our forest is reducing our carbon footprint, but I'd like to estimate by how much.

    Jeff Nelson
    Paducah, KY
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  37. Hi Jeff.

    The amount of carbon sequestered in a tree can vary wildly by species, age, location, et cetera.

    The U.S. Forest Service has a Tree Carbon Calculator which might be useful for getting an estimate. The tool was designed to work with Microsoft Excel, but you may be able to get by with OpenOffice or some other compatible spreadsheet.
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  38. Thanks, CB. After going to that site, I followed some links and did some more searching and have found some papers with some estimates of tons of carbon captured per acre per year. I'll do some additional research and some calculations and post my results.

    Jeff Nelson
    Paducah, KY
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  39. Following the link that CB gave, the calculator is for determining carbon in a single tree. References in the calculator's help screens led me to several sources more useful for my estimates.

    First, the EPA has a page, Representative Carbon Sequestration Rates and Saturation Periods for Key Agricultural & Forestry Practices, that gives a range of 0.6-2.6 metric tons of carbon per acre per year (for afforestation, which is my particular situation).

    This in turn led to a paper, Birdsey 1992, Carbon storage and accumulation in United States forest ecosystems which gave good estimates of sequestration rates in my part of the US and my type of forest. The rates applicable to my situation were 1,400-2000 lbs of carbon per acre per year.

    In an afforestation situation, there is very little carbon capture in the early years, but the rates above are reached in approximately 10 years and will continue for 90-120 years.

    Using this data, my 10 acres has sequestered at least 70-100 tons of carbon since we started the reforestation and will continue to capture 7 to 10 tons of carbon per year, making a significant reduction in our carbon footprint (currently about 15 tons of carbon per year).

    Jeff Nelson
    Paducah, KY
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  40. > solar powered ventilation system for our house.

    I'd like to see more on that, whenever

    > carbon per acre per year

    You might find something through
    (They aren't yet considering biodiversity but it's a start)
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