Saturday, July 26, 2008

What's the Point? Part One

There's an important question that needs to be answered before we can get groovin' on the green: Why?

To what purpose do you want to get green, or at least a little greener?

I have boiled it down to two answers. No right, no wrong, just answers. There may be more, but these are what I have come up with: You want to go green because of environmental issues, or you want to go green because of practical reasons. Practical can be broken down into two sub-sections - money and resource availability.

Environmental issues are varied in scope and intensity. Two phrases come up over and over again - "carbon footprint" (sorry Mum)(Mum loathes that phrase - it really irks her)(mostly because people throw it around like a bludgeon, I think, and with terrific ignorance as to its usefulness)(she doesn't like ignorant bludgeoners) and "global warming". As far as I can understand it, "carbon footprint" is, loosely, the impact you have on the environment. More specifically, it's the amount of carbon dioxide you and your lifestyle put into the atmosphere on any given day/week/month/year, depending on who's doing the measuring and how they're doing it. There's a mind boggling variety in all that. There are some folks trying to offset their impact, their footprint, by going greener or buying...well...offsets.

What's an offset?

An offset is a tree planted, an investment made in green energy, a bit of dirty water or earth cleaned up, some air filtered - anything that undoes or lessens the impact of modern human living. I find offsets fascinating - I mean, unless you're doing them for yourself, how do you know, really, that people are really doing anything but pocketing your money? And people are paying themselves to offset their footprint, which makes my brain hurt. Al Gore is doing that. He uses more power in one month at home than the average American does in seventeen months. When this was made public last year, many people were outraged on both sides of the green debate - some that he uses so much, some that anyone would dare point out he was a deeply flawed man with deeply flawed behaviors...just like the rest of us.

What interests me about him is his purchasing of offsets...from himself! How do I get in on that? I know...send me a few bucks and I'll plant a tree in your name. Honestly, I'll plant the tree anyway, but if you, dear Internet, are willing to pay me to do it, why not?? For a few (thousand) bucks more, I'll install solar panels on my house, sell excess power back to the EMC and tell you all about it in a quarterly e-newsletter.

Or you can reduce or mitigate your footprint yourself. Drive a high efficiency vehicle, drive less, carpool, use alternative fuels, walk, bicycle, or telecommute. Buy organic, locally produced foods and goods. Turn off the shower between soaping and rinsing. Install greywater collection systems, rainwater collection systems, and low flow toilets. Use low VOC paints, recycled building materials, renewable resources, and insulate, insulate, insulate. Reuse, recycle, and compost. Grow or make your own. Think deeply about what went into producing everything you touch in your daily life, and alter what and how you choose to use.

Hell, just use two cloth bags every time you shop. It'll be a start.

So what's "global warming"?

Well, if our planet were a person, global warming could be seen as a perfectly natural part of the organism's cycle - we humans get warm and cool off on a regular basis - or maybe as a fever useful for getting rid of deleterious organisms in the system...which could just be us.

Our planet is a planet, though. It doesn't have a conscience, a mind, a thinking, reasoning process. It's a ball of dirt rolling along the cosmic lanes, unthinking, unfeeling, unaware. Ouch, that hurt. I love my planet, and I happen to believe that it is alive and does have spirit...but that's another story. For the purposes of global warming, I'm looking at our Earth as a system, not a being.

Stick with me...I know I'm flaky and a bit off-center and in no way scientific or educated in this, but I'm also good for a laugh with my weirdness!

For years beyond counting, our planet has warmed and cooled. I learned recently, despite the dire warnings of the green and crunchy communities, that we are actually in an ice age. It was on National Geographic, so it must be true.

An ice age? How can that be? Everyone's screaming about global warming!!

Well...perhaps we're on the back end of an ice age. I mean, if they're cyclic, we have to go in and then come out, right? And coming out...wait for it...would require...wait...warming, right??

So the two are not mutually exclusive.

What I wonder about is how we humans impact that natural process of warming and cooling. How do we measure that, when we've never been through this before? Should we even be concerned, really? I mean, if it's a recurring thing...why worry?

Except, I'm pretty sure that, warming or no, it's only since humans were around in such abundance that the air was chewable, the water flammable, and the very structure of the earth was altered because of foundations, levelling, landfills, drilling, mining, bombing, draining, watering, and every other thing we do to make the Earth what we want, as opposed to figuring out how to live with it as it is.

The answers to global warming, at least as humans impact it, are not as easy as those to carbon footprint, although some are the same. You see, to keep from influencing global warming, we'd have to give up on oil, coal, and all they produce for us. We'd have to stop burning things, go solar and nuclear, wind and wave powered, if we had power at all. We'd have t give up on plastic, on much of our modern medicine and technology, on food packaging and preservation, even food availability. We'd have to let people die of hunger, thirst, and disease.

To reverse warming? Paint the planet white and pray. White reflects light and heat, helping to cool the globe - that's one of the nifty things the ice caps do, and as they melt, it starts a vicious circle; melt, warm, melt more, warm more...

Ultimately, I haven't got an answer. We are biological beings answering a biological imperative (the biological imperative) by perpetuating and preserving the species. Everything we do is based in that.

So what's a body to do? A body muddling through life hoping not to do too much damage while maintaining a level of comfort?

I have no idea. That's the point of this blog, isn't it? Finding a way to make green mainstream...

We'll get to resource availability next time - I've aired enough of my silliness for one post.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Meat of the Matter

Or would that be "The Matter of Meat"? Or "Meat is the Matter"? Wait, now I'm feeling dizzy.

Y'all should know, I'm not getting anything for blathering on about a particular product or service. I'm nowhere near famous, let alone famous enough to garner that kind of graft, so feel free to hit the links I provide over in the side bar and read on without fear of ulterior motives - I'm writing this because I believe what I'm saying.

A couple of months ago my friend Michelle asked me if I'd like to get in on an order for mail-order meat. Yeah, I said Mail-order meat. Before you say "eww, gross" and go trolling for Charlie the Unicorn videos on YouTube, hear me out.

It's a damnit long web address to type in, and I did it wrong the first time or twelve, but eventually I ended up at a site run by the Slanker family in Texas. I'll save you the effort and make a link, because I'm all about making it easy. Go look at the meat, I'll wait.

I checked out the website she told me about, and it looked good. A bit chaotic and old school, as sites go (although still far more than I could manage if I didn't have wonderful Blogspot to do most of the work for me!), but very informative, easy enough to navigate and...most important...the product looked worth a try.

I called Mum and asked her if she was interested - we're always looking for (mostly) affordable organic alternatives to farm-raised, feed enhanced, solution injected, antibiotic and hormone pumped critter products.

We pitched in on the order - the company allows for cooperative orders to save on shipping, how cool is that??? Five families - Mum, myself, Kit, Michelle, and another friend of Michelle's who actually started the whole thing - ordered, and we had it shipped here to Casa de Crazy because among all the accoutrements of my ginormous carbon footprint, I have an industrial sized freezer that will more than hold whatever we decide to order at any given time.

So far, we've all been pleased with what we ordered.

I like the pork chops, but they're tiny. No, really - compared to the regular, factory-farmed ones at the market, these things are miniscule. No worries, though, because in this case size really doesn't matter. They're small but mighty...mighty good!

The steaks can feed a legion. I grilled two while camping in Ohio and fed four and a half people with them. You heard me - two ribeyes fed four and a half people!

The salmon actually converted a woman who doesn't like fish - D ate two helpings. Two. Of fish. And she loathes fish. She only tried it to be polite. Her husband J was ready to grab the whole piece of fish in his teeth and bolt to woods, growling and bear-like (and he's not really at all bear-like, normally) as he gobbled it down. He was really quite funny. I gave them the web address of the company so they could order some for themselves. A warning about the fish - it's not small. It's huge. It's half a wild-caught salmon, and it's not at all apologetic about its size. I cooked it in foil over the fire in Ohio and shared it with many people, because I knew Mum and I would never finish it. Luckily, our friend J was quite happy to take care of any leftovers!

I haven't tried the whole chicken yet, or the roast I ordered, but I am comfortable presuming they'll be the same quality. Some day, when I'm having a few hundred guests over, I may order the lamb.

OK, so here I am on a green-type blog, talking meat. What's up with that? Aren't green-type people supposed to be all about the tofu, tempei, and vegetables that volunteered to be dinner? Uh, yeah. That would be some other green-type person.

See the title of the blog? See where it says "Mainstream..."? That would include us folks who still eat any critter that didn't get out of the way fast enough to avoid being dinner. The whole point to this blog is to share ways that regular folks can reduce their impact on the planet. So, meat.

But don't despair - they have a few vegetables and fruits, too, as well as dairy products and eggs.

Give them a try. I found the prices comparable to organic at the market, and if you can find a few families to co-op with, you'll all save on shipping.

If you order from them, let me know what you think. Meanwhile, tell me about ways you're going organic or green with your food.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rain Barrels

I am considering rain barrels for my home. We've had some decent rainfall lately, but the drought isn't over. It's just...paused...for a bit.

So - rain barrels. Hook 'em to the downspouts and use 'em to water the landscaping. I don't really have landscaping - I am not the sort who will put on the effort proper landscaping requires. I have some trees and some grass mixed with weeds (mostly weeds) and a few hers. One of these days I'll have some fruit things - blueberries, maybe, or cherry trees - but that's in the future. Still, I like the idea of watering the iris once in a while instead of watching them get brown and sad and wondering if they'll return next year or if THIS was the season that finished them.

I like the ones that have screens to keep out leaves, pine straw, and weirdoes, and spigots on the bottom for attaching a hose. I have a huge roof - one day, it will be prime space for solar panels - so I should be able to fill a few barrels quite easily with a rainfall or two.

Have you considered barrels? What sort? Wood? Plastic? Covered? With spigot or without? I'd like to know - if you have them, how effective are they?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Water, Water, Everywhere...

...And that's the problem.

I live in Georgia. We've been living with drought conditions for a few years now. It's dry enough that Lake Lanier, the lake that provides water for much of the state south of Gainesville, is down some thirteen feet. People who had homes with waterfront find themselves suddenly posessed of extra yards to mow.

I have long tried to be aware of my water usage, even before the drought. I've been known to turn off the shower to soap up, turn it on to rinse, off to condition my hair (hey, it's down to my bum, it needs conditioning or I'll blister the paint with my profanity while combing it), on to rinse, and done. Sometimes it was because I didn't want to waste water, and sometimes because there wasn't much hot, and have you ever tried getting conditioner out with cold water??

So I live in a state with a serious problem, exacerbated by the fact that other states also need water and are demanding more. No one wants to conserve, and they wait until the absolute last moment to institute watering bans. Two years ago, only a few granola people and me gave a thought to rainwater collection systems for their homes (I still don't have one, dang it, but I want one!!). Now that water is costing them so much, they're thinking about barrels, tubs, all sorts of things. Hmm. Why does it take a blow to the wallet to make people think??

Let me preface this next bit with a statement: I am a nutter. Yes, I am. Nutsy-cuckoo, me!

OK, now that's out of the way (I was trying to save you some time - nothing but thoughtful!), let me get to something I've been thinking about for a few years, now: bottled water.

Imagine a grocery store. Just one store. Now, imagine walking down the aisle where they house bottled water. See all those bottles? Now, the soft drinks. See all the liquids with water for their base? Now expand that mental picture to include the entire store full of bottles, cans, and packages full of liquids - shampoo, tinned tuna, vegetables, cleaning supplies, even the packaged meat has water in it.

Where did all that water come from?

Now, take that grocery store and multiply it. Add in all the Super-Whatever stores, warehouse clubs, gas stations and vending machines. Don't be shy, think globally. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Get it?

You want to know why so many places have shortages?? Hello? The water cannot flow if it's bottled up!! If you think bottling water in New York won't affect Georgia, or California, or Africa, think again. We have a global system. Let's think - does a bleeding finger affect your feet? Eventually, it will. Lose enough from one place, it will start to hurt other places.

I say we start a movement - the "Free the Di-Hydrogen Oxide" brigade!! Anyone with me? Anyone?

Why do I hear crickets?