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Weathering Change

A family from Bothell, a TV host and a high school sophomore take a shot at cutting greenhouse gas emissions. See how they're doing.


May 30, 2007

Sacrifice? Hardly

Posted by The Fraleys at 09:44 AM

We approach the date of reckoning, May 31, having reached several goals this past month.

We drove less.

We got substantially better gas mileage when we DID drive.

We saved many kilowatts of electricity. (Seriously, kilowatts? Can this country make up its mind, are we going to go metric or are we going to slog on for centuries with that other incomprehensible/illogical measuring system?)

We made less waste, by composting and conserving and recycling more diligently.

We ordered renewable energy through the Snohomish County PUD website.

We unplugged our extra freezer. (We emptied it first.)

We reduced our junk mail and planted some trees through greendimes.com. We unplugged minor appliances and chargers religiously.

And wow - 28 days later, and none of that hurt. Our standard of living remained pretty privileged overall. We still drove to Camano Island for a weekend. We continued to take hot showers that lasted a little too long. We once even took home some styrofoam boxes when we ordered Chinese. (Those we do feel pretty bad about, come to think of it.) We still turned the heat on when we needed it, which was a lot in the first half of the month. We still ran the computer for hours each day, just not endlessly as we had before.

So did we really sacrifice? Some, we suppose, but it was of the mild, painless variety. Instead of depriving ourselves, we lived more responsibly. I guess you could say we acted more like adults and less like spoiled children. Had to eventually happen.

Now, can we trim more off of our carbon footprint? Sure. And we'd love to. This was a great jump-start for our family, a chance to get serious about our environmental impact because for once, we were being held a little accountable.

We'll measure our May emissions in a few days and feel good about ourselves and how much we slashed in a month. Then instead of reverting to "we're-too-busy-to-make-a-difference" mode, we'll do our best to maintain our good new habits. Maybe it'll matter.

May 29, 2007

"Do I really need ... ?"

Posted by Nancy Guppy at 04:35 PM

Had a late lunch with "B" the other day. My delicious turkey sandwich, served on wax paper, was rather generous, so I decided to take half home.

As I prepared to ask the sandwich server for a transport bag, "B" said:

"Do you really need a bag?"

"Well, yeah, I'm taking it home".

"But do you really need a bag?"


Am I not enunciating? Is "B" going deaf?


"Yes 'B'," I replied, "Unlike you, I didn't scarf down my entire sandwich, so I'm taking the uneaten half home, which means I need a bag."


"B"'s normally cute eyes began to glow.


"Do. You. Really. Need. A. Bag." This time there was no question mark.


I finally got it.


"Ohhhh. Right. You're asking if I need a bag, but you mean, 'can't you transport the leftover half sandwich in the wax paper, YOU GLOBE-WARMING, RESOURCE-SQUANDERING, LANDFILL-FILLING, WASTEFUL WASTREL?'"


"B" put on her "prissy teacher-who's-just-launched-a-teachable-moment" face.


This project is either going to deepen our friendship or end it.


My feelings of joy and triumph were, I'm sure, similar to climbers of Mt. Everest

Posted by Nancy Guppy at 10:09 AM

In my first entry/introduction, I mentioned my weakness for UFO's, the delicious mint chocolate disks sold at Trader Joe's that I like to eat in a very specific way* every night.

At any rate, unbeknownst to you dear reader, the UFO's have been out of stock for weeks, months, years even! Okay, just weeks. But weeks that have been filled with near daily phone conversations like this:

Them, all happy sounding:


"Thanks for calling Trader Joes."


Me, furtive whispering:


"Are they in yet?"


Them, impatient sighing:


"No, Ma'am. Have you considered therapy?"


Me, furtive loud whispering:


"I'm in therapy! What the hell do you think I talk about every week?!"

So, yesterday I re-worked my strategy, deciding to drop the harassing phone campaign for a surprise, in-person shelf scan. First though, "How can I use this for my blog?" Ah yes, DON'T DRIVE, that old chestnut...

I changed into sensible shoes and, 20 sweaty minutes later, beheld this most beautiful sight: groaning shelves of UFO's! My feelings of joy and triumph were, I'm sure, similar to climbers of Mt. Everest.


Call it "my old testament god" or "my karma" (or "my craziness"), but I am convinced that, because I did the right thing to combat global warming by walking instead of driving, I was divinely rewarded with this cosmic manifestation of my favorite treat.

* Lying in bed reading, I balance a small robin's egg blue colored bowl holding 12-UFO's on the bedcovers and eat the disks one by one, sucking them down into little flattish balls and then gently biting them into a final melt of deliciousness in my mouth.

May 24, 2007

I walk the line

Posted by Nancy Guppy at 01:15 PM

This whole carbon footprint thing has got me thinking about NEED versus WANT. And I realize that I have absolutely no idea what constitutes appropriate amounts of resources.

Obviously, I can figure out the appropriate amount of mashed potatoes I want on my plate, but when it comes to resources like electricity, water, gas, etc., I get all confusey. If only electricity, water and gas would fit on my plate and I could look at it and make a decision. We're talking portion control.

Take showering for instance: do I NEED 500 gallons of water per shower or do I just WANT 500 gallons and really only NEED 2 tablespoons?

And then what do I do about the WANT part?

Is it okay to WANT, or does NEED always trump WANT?

I need! I want! I need! I want!

I need AND I want!

I walk the line.

May 21, 2007

Spring scents

Posted by Nancy Guppy at 03:36 PM

There are a number of differences between "destination walking" and "meandering walking," namely structure.

"Destination walking" involves intense structure -- an action agenda, a well-thought out route, and constant wristwatch-watching.

"Meandering walking" is loose and free, much like Woodstock, sans nude mud bathing and Jimi Hendrix's inspiring rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner."

That said, here is an important similarity: Walking of all kinds is probably the best way to lessen your carbon footprint.

Plus it gets you up close and personal with the world. You see, feel and smell so much more than when you're driving fast with the windows rolled tight and the global-warming, self-cooling A/C blasting.

Which brings me to my most recent sojourn.

Walking to the video store to return a movie (eco-points, please), I passed through a new'ish smell. Spring brings out so many interesting scents and this one was hard to peg. Not exactly a flower -- a little too pungent and forced for that -- but something sweet and fruity. I quickly flipped through my brain card catalog* of smells:

Sweet tarts? No.


Old lady perfume? No.


Children's orange flavored aspirin? No.


Grape Kool-Aid? YES!

Okay, now for the source. Let's see, stalks of bamboo... trees... bushes... Sanikan... uh oh. Sanikan. That was my source.

Kinda wrecks my memories of grape Kool-Aid. On the plus side, I really needed to go.


*Card catalog: The Neolithic way we once located books in the library.

May 17, 2007

An eco-opportunity

Posted by Nancy Guppy at 12:14 PM

An eco-opportunity par excellence has presented itself:

A couple weeks ago I drove my Toyota Prius to Trader Joes... yes yes yes, I could have walked but it's a hybrid, damnit! Don't I at least get a few points for that?!

Sorry, I'm feeling a bit sensitive. Hormones.

Anyway, I was parked on the street facing east--I live west--so when taking my leave, I decided to save time and back up around the corner where I could then easily take a left/west, instead of pulling out/east and looping around the block in order to head home/west.

Smart girl! I slid into reverse, hit the gas, and slammed into an unseen telephone pole. Now, let us not ponder the sound of moving metal object hitting inert pole of wood, the rapt and unwanted attention from nearby shoppers, the incredible stupidity of the original time-saving idea, nor, most of all, the $2,000 + body shop estimate.

No. For our eco-purposes, I want to focus on what this would mean for my carbon footprint. Fixing the Prius will take, according to the super nice guy at CSI in Ballard, 5-7 business days. That would force me into a walking/busing/hitchhiking mode of transportation, and that, my friends, would look so most excellent in this blog!

The problem is that being car-less right now, at this time in my life, would be terribly inconvenient. Of course, that's what everyone says, but I really mean it!

Stay Tuned.

May 14, 2007

Negotiating with Id

Posted by Nancy Guppy at 10:26 AM

When this project started waaaay back in early May, I was excited. "What's going to happen? What am I gonna learn? How will this change my life?"

Now it's boring.

Unplugging my phone charger after my phone is juiced up, rather than leaving it conveniently plugged in forever, isn't particularly sexy.

Trudging to the video store to return the Agatha Christie "Hercule Poirot" DVD, (Joe and I are crazy for that anal retentive Belgian sleuth), rather than driving the 10 blocks, is positively funereal. And there is no Dixie-land Jazz band swaying along behind me.

I suppose it's like dieting or not drinking. Fun'ish at first, especially with the beautiful fantasy of what thinness or sobriety is going to mean. But then the cravings appear right on schedule, and my Id let's out a roar:

"It's 4:00 pm-- where's my Macrina Bakery chocolate chip cookie?"

"It's 5:00 pm-- where's my vodka on the rocks with twist?"

"Dang it! I don't want to walk to the video store and I don't want to unplug my phone charger-- it's too inconvenient!"

At this point the best answer to myself isn't:
"You'll never again have a Macrina chocolate chip cookie or a stiff drink or drive to the video store or not unplug your phone charger!"

Better to talk as if to a confused child:

Super Ego: "Yeah, I totally hear you. Driving to the video store does sound way better. And we can do that. (PAUSE) It sure is nice outside. It might feel kinda good to get some fresh air."

Id:
"Maybe.

Super Ego:
"We can walk past Macrina."

Id: "Sold!"

Feeling good so far

Posted by The Fraleys at 10:23 AM

It feels like we've accomplished a lot in the first part of the month, when we take the time to list off all the changes we've made to cut emissions.

We installed all new energy-saver lightbulbs throughout the house, about 50 of them.

We drove less than usual, and when we did drive, we took the Prius almost every time. LOVE that thing!

We bought fancy powerstrips that save electricity.

We unplugged appliances and chargers when not in use.

We used a pushmower on our lawn.

We've been running the heat only seldom.

We cut our garbage can waste to two bags' worth over the whole week by composting better and not using disposable diapers.

We turned off the computer each night.

The thing that feels really good is how little work it took to make these changes. Sure, the lightbulbs took a while to replace, but we did a few every night, and voila!, we have electricity conservation for years to come. Cori learned the bus schedule, and John reworked his driving schedule slightly to make fewer long trips, and together we sliced 100 miles off our weekly driving habits, which will save us serious money. The rest of the stuff just took a couple of days to get used to, and now we've formed good habits. Maybe we can even keep this up after May 31 comes and goes.

Plus, now we're looking FORWARD to getting our next energy bills. Is that a little demented?

May 10, 2007

Mozzarella from across the Atlantic

Posted by Nancy Guppy at 03:44 PM

I am most happy to report some positive self-control in the carbon footprint department.

A few days back I was shopping at Trader Joe's — love the store and but hate the tiny parking lot that makes me want to play bumper cars with the other drivers.

Now, before I go any further, I know what "B" would have to say:

"Hang on, Nancy. We both know how close you live to Trader Joe's, so instead of driving, why not walk?"

"Yeah, thanks for your input 'B', but this particular entry is about a positive decision I made, plus it's my blog, so quit butting in."

Anyway, I had a craving for fresh mozzarella cheese — you know, those soft white cheese balls that come packed in water. I headed to the cheese section and voila!, a single, beautiful large fresh mozzarella ball was staring me in the face — perfect! Now, I wasn't fond of the plastic container encasing the cheese, but hey, fresh cheese has to be transported somehow, so into the basket it headed. But first, the label. I started reading food labels a while back, searching for any evidence of those axis-of-evil trans fats, but mostly to find out where products are produced and shipped — city/state/country.

Uh oh. This beautiful ball had been flown in (first class?) from Italy. Huh. My first thought, "How fresh could it be"? My second, much more important thought, "How much fuel was expended to get this way-less-than-a-pound item to it's final destination — Seatte/Washington/USA? Here's a very rough calculation:

1) Car/truck transport from the Italian dairy farm where the cheese was made, to the waiting jet plane


2) Jet plane across the Atlantic


3) Refrigerated truck picks up cheese from the plane and drives to the food distribution center


4) Refrigerated distribution center truck drives the cheese to my local Trader Joe's

Needless to say, I went home empty handed, and instead of soft white cheese, I ate a snack of potato chips that were manufactured in Addison, Illinois, and purchased by my loving but seriously un-enlightened husband.

"But Nancy, by eating those shipped-from-far-away potato chips, don't you become un-enlightened as well?"

"Oh, can it, 'B.' Illinois is a lot closer than, Italy, okay?"

May 08, 2007

Another one rides the bus

Posted by The Fraleys at 12:49 PM

Contrary to our preconceptions, riding the bus has been efficient, up to a point. Cori and Aaron now take it to and from preschool one morning a week, so it's kind of a fun event for Aaron, plus it's quality time for the both of them. Cori takes it to her Kirkland school from Canyon Park once a week.

That's been a theme for us these last few days. As we've cut down on car trips, we've also spent some quality time together as a family. (Insert your own Waltons or Leave it to Beaver joke here.) On Monday afternoon all us Fraley males went on a walk down our hill to the commercial area 3/4 of a mile away, where we ordered Chinese, parked the double stroller over on the Starbucks patio, and met Cori for a picnic when she stepped off the bus. We even all got a spot of exercise that way, God forbid. And then this coming Wednesday, all four of us are planning to hop on at 8 in the morning, ride to preschool, drop off Aaron, then spend a couple hours at the library and Caffe Ladro (love that place!) before heading back home together.

When we signed up for this challenge, we basically ruled out bus riding as an energy conservation tool. It was impossible for John, because his schedule is very tight and very specific. It seemed over-inconvenient for Cori, meanwhile, because the routes from our home (in north Bothell) to her school (in south Kirkland) were too long or slightly off in their timing. But a little time spent with the Trip Planner tool on the Metro King County transit site fixed most of those issues, and Cori can now make the trip in easily under an hour each way, which is just about how long it would take in the car on a bad traffic day anyway.

So, all that to say, riding that bus can cut down on the miles. Who knew?

(P.S. Filled the Prius up at the pump for the first time today. Got 445 miles on my first 8.2 gallons. I think I might have snickered out loud at the other drivers in their assorted pickups and minivans. Am I a snob already? Drat.)

May 07, 2007

Good intentions

Posted by Nancy Guppy at 11:01 PM

Let's talk about good intentions.

I intended to take the bus to the Seattle Art Museum yesterday morning, but suddenly it was 8:45 and I had to be there by 9:15. Oh well.

I intended to walk to On the Boards yesterday afternoon to buy tickets for an upcoming performance, but suddenly it was 5:50 and the box office closed at 6:00. Oh well.

Now, to be fair to myself (someone has to be!), changing my eco-behavior is hard, but then, so is making behavioral changes of any kind.

I don't think it's literally the action part that's so tough (taking the bus, walking to buy tickets). It's the psychological decision to take the action. In other words, if I had really WANTED to take the bus to the Seattle Art Museum, I would have looked at the bus schedule. Instead, I only got as far as thinking about what a good idea it would be to take the bus.

If I had really WANTED to walk to buy the performance tickets, I would have found out the box office hours and timed my walk accordingly. Instead, I fantasized about how good my walking to buy tickets was going to look in this blog and, by the time I returned to reality, I not only had to jump in the car and drive for the tickets, but I had to speed.

"Yes Officer, I know I was going 75 in a 25 mph zone..."

The road to a really expensive ticket is paved with good eco-intentions.

P.S.-- I have a sinking feeling that "B" will have something to say about the use of the word '"had" in this sentence:
"'Had to jump in the car...', Nancy, or you chose to jump in the car?"


Zip it, "B."

May 04, 2007

A day without motor vehicles

Posted by Kimberly Roberts at 05:22 PM

Just for fun, I woke up this morning, and decided I wasn't going to set foot inside a motorized vehicle for the entire day. Yes, that's right — no cars, not even buses. The morning was a breeze. I walked to school like I always do. After my lacrosse practice, I was tempted to ask my neighbor Isabel for a ride home — actually, she even offered! I replied, "No thank you,"almost cringing, as my legs were a tad trembly from the seven sets of sprints we had done that day. The longing for a ride subsided, however, when I plugged my I-pod in and selected some Belle and Sebastian. I arrived home shortly and began doing homework.

At about six o'clock, my friend called me, urging me to do a crash study session at her house for this Japanese test we had tomorrow. I knew I needed this study session, but Sara's house in Laurelhurst seemed worlds away.

"No motor-vehicles, no motor vehicles..."I chanted from within. Despite my exhaustion, I decided it was time to resurrect my bicycle from the depths of my garage. After making my way through old suitcases and unwanted cassettes, I found my bike. It was slightly dusty, but that hot pink with purple stripes shown through. Okay, so I guess my bike suits 6th graders more than me, but it gets the job done. I pumped some air into the tires since it hadn't been used for years.

I took the Burke Gilman over to Laurelhurst, to be passed countless times by bikers with yellow spandex and skinny tires. The ride was actually quite refreshing. The breeze was invigorating and I arrived within half an hour.

In retrospect, each decision I made to walk or ride my bike did take some effort, but after doing it, it honestly was not that much of a hardship. The time was hardly a sacrifice. I got some exercise, and got to show off a sweet set of pink wheels. I'm sure I couldn't do this every day, but exercising my will power will make environmentally conscious decisions easier and stop me from being lazy.

May 03, 2007

Today I dried my hair sans hair dryer ...

Posted by Nancy Guppy at 10:08 AM

Man, the dawn, for me, is so slow to break.

My good friend, B, read my blog entry from a few days ago, and one particular line I wrote, "As I was drying my hair it occurred to me..." prompted her to pose this question: "Were you drying your hair with a towel or with a hair dryer?"

Answer: hair dryer. Argh. B then observed that because I already take super short showers, I should shift my focus and concentrate more on areas where I don't naturally conserve.

"Oh, shut up!" I thought.

"Interesting idea," I said aloud.

After we hung up, I spent a number of minutes sputtering defensively to myself, then had to admit that there was a kernel, or perhaps a whole cob, of wisdom in B's "suggestion". So, today I dried my hair sans hair dryer. How does it look? Not so good. At least that's what the bathroom mirror says, although honestly, between you and me, it probably looks no different from any other day. So thanks for the input, B. Seriously. I mean it. Really. I do.

Argh. Baby steps.

May 01, 2007

I thought I was treating the environment just fine ...

Posted by Kimberly Roberts at 09:28 PM

Before deeply contemplating my carbon contribution, I was quite haughty about my relationship with the earth. I walk to school every day, don't eat meat, and take three-minute showers. Compared to the gas guzzling, meat eating, and garbage dumping ways of the average American, I thought I was treating the environment just fine.

Yet when I read articles in the Times and saw "An Inconvenient Truth", which discussed the consequences, current and future, of global warming, I was completely humbled. Polar bears are swimming for hundreds of miles because of the way humans are pumping excessive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Our atmosphere does not care where the carbon came from; it will warm the earth just the same. I now realize that my contentment with my carbon footprint will do nothing in the fight against global warming.

There will always be something that I can change in order to better the environment and reduce my carbon output. This month I plan to break this "what-I'm-doing-is-good-enough" mentality and actually take action in the fight against global warming. To start, I will unplug my cell phone and laptop chargers when they are not in use. I will also wash my laundry in cold water.

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