before Halloween comes National Weatherization Day

That’s right folks, get excited! Before you don your costumes, before you eat candy til your belly hurts, before you go out pumpkin smashing, do something weatherization-related for the good of the Earth. Friday, Oct. 30 … coming to a community near you … “celebrate the positive potential of residential weatherization and our green economic recovery.” Oh Sierra Club, what a push! But really, I support weatherization and green jobs, and so should you! Even if it means adding another fake holiday to the e-card list.

On National Weatherization Day, cities will be hosting events to highlight services and organizations that help people to make their homes more energy efficient. Across the country, federal recovery funds are helping people weatherize their homes for winter, creating jobs and reducing energy waste.

National Weatherization Day is also an opportunity to showcase an emerging home renovation industry that could create hundreds of thousands of good, family-supporting green jobs. Weatherization Day events will highlight solution-based programs and efforts to implement city-wide home makeovers, as well as urge the Obama administration to continue to champion a green economic recovery.

The folks at the Sierra Club are so stoked about this holiday, they’ve gone and created some Web stuff for you to spread the word.

Celebrate Weatherization Day:

Spread the word about energy efficiency by writing a letter to your local newspaper. We make it so easy you don’t even have to lick a stamp!

Share this Halloween Efficiency Flyer (PDF) with your neighbors!

Is there a weatherization activity near you? Tell us [Sierra Club] about it!

Even New Jersey is on the train – so you should be, too.

More useful links:

Home Performance Tips:
Cool Cities Home Audit Checklist
DOE Energy Savers Tips<!–
B.E.S.T. Weatherization Tips
doityourself.com How To
Pacific Power Weatherization Tips –>

For More Information:
Sierra Club Green Home

Blue Green Alliance partners are leading the effort to rebuild America:
Building a Clean Energy Workforce
Laborers Weatherization Training Video


climate change issues a la Blog Action Day

In honor of Blog Action Day, I am back. And I want to talk about climate change.

Today I read this post on Grist that really underscores just how bad things are getting for us. But what spoke to me most was that amid the deterioration, experts continue to speak to the public in calm, even boring tones. Where is the passion? the fervor? the

All the latest science shows climate change is accelerating at an alarming rate. But all we do is explain the sometimes minute details of how we know this. Except science also shows that the simple steps we encourage the public to take — recycling, walking more, unplugging electronics — can’t help much. Just cutting greenhouse-gas emissions isn’t enough anymore. We need real, major overhauls. We need global shifts in energy practices. We need multinational resource protection. We need worldwide, permanent changes.

Thus far, the Grist article notes, the climate change story has been largely data-driven or promoted through what essentially are gimmicks to get us to change a light bulb – everyone loves the polar bear and frankly you are heartless if you don’t. But the real stories matter, too! The stories about “coastal insalination rendering vast swaths of farmland useless, houses plunging into the sea as permafrost melts, even wildfires threatening the City of the Angels, to name just a very few” are the ones that we need to hear. They may be happening far away or under the radar, but they are happening. We are losing entire species of underwater creatures! We are sweating in October! These things are all interconnected. And worsening.

Adam Sacks in this Grist article says:

We climate activists are the ones who aren’t saying what needs to be said. Our silence is not the lack of words, it is the absence of an essence in urgent human relationships, an essence with power to break the bonds of unthinkable thoughts: Passion.

He goes on to quote an excerpt from a moving speech out of American history that is filled with exactly that – passion. Our ancestors found passion when it mattered, yet we are barely mustering up enough passion to continue the equal rights fight today. But I see passion in everyone trying out for So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol. So we are still passionate people … ha. Where is our passion for our PLANET? For the FUTURE OF EVERYTHING AS WE KNOW IT?

Check out Sacks’ call for passion – and pass it on!

Today we are addressing the end of the world we know, quite possibly the extinction of homo sapiens and most other species on earth, and we can do little more than cite statistics? Surely an unravelled web of life, miserable ends for countless creatures great and small, and mass death of billions of human beings, mostly innocent, should call for “scorching irony,” at the very least.

Where are our fire, thunder, ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, stern rebuke?  Why are we so polite? Why are we so obedient?  What are we thinking?  What aren’t we thinking?  What are we doing?  What aren’t we doing?  When do we start?
I have a proposition for you.  Try your hand at a letter—to an editor, or to a friend, or to a lover, or to a child—availing yourself of all the passion you can muster as we hasten blindly toward world’s end…

… When do we start?  Now’s the time.

Quill and ink (or keyboard) in hand, summon your muse and write for our lives!

Ok, admittedly this is a little insane-sounding and over the top. But I don’t want to face the problems that are on the way for our children and say I did nothing to lessen the blow. Blog Action Day is certainly a start, but let’s keep the conversation going!


Students prefer eco-friendly colleges – what a generation!

Two-thirds of college applicants say a school’s green record would influence their enrollment decision, according to a Princeton Review survey [PDF]. To determine how eco-friendly colleges are, prospective students should check out these lists:

Grist also summarized its take on Sierra’s picks in this article.

Sierra’s top 10:

Boulder ranks No. 1 - surprised?

Boulder ranks No. 1 - surprised?

My undergrad alma mater – UCSD – is 33rd, and my grad school – Northwestern University – didn’t even make the list! I suppose I am actually not shocked, considering the water waste I witnessed and complained about this summer. For those of you not from the West, Californians are used to conserving water. But outside the state, and particularly near the lovely, hydrating Great Lakes, people do not have such sensitivity. My fellow students and I spent many mornings trying to outrun rogue sprinklers doing nothing more than cleaning concrete and blocking building entrances. One friend likened the challenge to Super Mario Bros. Not to mention the consistent leaking from hose connections!

I hope Northestern and Medill feel some shame at being left off this list (and earning an abismal C+ on the Green Report Card 2009 – by your standards, Medill, doesn’t that put you on academic, er environmental, probation?). Perhaps Northwestern’s own multidisciplinary sustainability fellowship should do something about this.

How did your school fare? I am hoping better than Northwestern …


Stockholm trash chutes – futuristic AND eco-friendly!

From Time – why, oh why, does the US not invest in such amazing infrastructure?? We could be getting rid of trash the way the Jetson’s did. Click the link to watch the video and start getting jealous …

The coolest part of Hammarby Sjostad, a new eco-neighborhood of Stockholm, is the trash. It gets sucked through pneumatic tubes — at 43 m.p.h. (70 km/h) — after residents drop their household waste into special chutes: one for food that will get composted, another for paper to be recycled and a third for garbage that can be burned. As the latter gets incinerated, the energy produced is converted into district heating and electricity. The goal is both to keep garbage out of landfills and ultimately to produce half the neighborhood’s energy.

“Everything people are throwing away is coming back in one way or another,” says Hammarby spokesman Erik Freudenthal. And that includes sewage. It gets turned into fertilizer as well as biogas, which is used to fuel buses, taxis and approximately 1,000 gas stoves. Yum!

Yep - that is the public trash chute

Yep - that is the public trash chute


NRDC rates beaches by water quality – how clean is your beach?

Sweltering heat is still sweeping much of the south/west and peaking through the storms in the rest of country … so beaches are still a destination for most of us!

But just how clean is your beach? Find out at the NRDC site here: Testing the Waters 2009.


The live tool allows you to zoom in and roll over the stars for more explanation ...

The live tool allows you to zoom in and roll over the stars for more explanation ...

According to this … Newport Beach (CA) fares better than Huntington, if you can believe it … Newport earned the star designating that:

Fewer than 5 percent of the water samples taken any year for the last 3 years (2006-2008) exceeded the national health standard for bacteria.
These beaches rarely, if ever, violated health standards for the last three years and deserve special recognition. Water quality can fluctuate from year to year depending on the amount of rainfall, for example, particularly at beaches most susceptible to stormwater contamination. The safest beaches are those that meet public health standards during both wet and dry years.

Huntington did not.

Check out the beaches in your ‘hood … even beaches on Lake Michigan are listed! North Avenue beach did great in ’08 … unlike Ohio (surprised? I am not sure … )


California Coastal Cleanup Day conflicts with Jewish holiday

Yeah yeah, I know. Who cares … can’t win ’em all. The 25th anniversary of the California Coastal Cleanup Day is set for Saturday, Sept. 19th at beaches across the state. Go participate, if you can. I will actually be in my home state, where my permanent address is, where I am a registered voter. And yet I will not be able to participate in an event I think is so awesome because I will be respecting one of the 2 High Holidays that my parents observe rather religiously.

I thought at the very least the government would not plan events – anything at all, really – on the holiest days of the year for any faith. Google “world religions calendar” – not that hard.

So I emailed the volunteer manager that sent me the invitation to the event (because I am on one listserv or another). She responded with this:

the following excerpt from the organizing agency’s Web site (http://www.coastal.ca.gov/publiced/ccd/ccd.html):

The California Coastal Commission has received inquiries about why Coastal Cleanup Day takes place on Sept. 19, which coincides with the first day of Rosh Hashanah. CCD is part of the International Coastal Cleanup, which has been scheduled on the third Saturday of September since 1986. The consistency of the date of this global effort is one of many reasons why the Cleanup has been so successful at mobilizing millions of volunteers over the years. The Coastal Commission is sensitive to the scheduling conflict this year and regrets that some volunteers may not be able to participate. If you are unable to join us on September 19th this year, please visit our Coastweeks pages for alternative events and activities taking place during the three weeks after the Cleanup. Thanks for your understanding.

Really? I get it – it’s always the third Saturday and they don’t control the moon. I have to say, even though I am not a religious person and I actually grasp the concept of organizing global events, I still think no one cares that it’s always the third Saturday. The public doesn’t even remember year to year. Many people don’t even know this event exists. In fact, many people don’t even live near an ocean! Not to diminish the event – I think it is important and awesome, I am just (clearly) bitter I cannot participate (so, please, go participate for me! pick up TWICE as much trash).

Calendars are available many years out. Again, not that difficult. Pick a Saturday. People will do it. But I guess I won’t until next year, assuming the moon doesn’t conflict.


Cash for clunkers, or my plan to save the auto industry

So many of you have heard about this government program that offers you money back for trading in your old car for a newer, more gas efficient model. The Sierra Club explains it briefly:

Just over a month ago, President Obama signed into law the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), aka “Cash for Clunkers.” Between now and November 1, $1 billion in federal funding is available to help sell new vehicles. That means you can get a $3,500 to $4,500 credit toward replacing your old gas guzzler with a newer, more-efficient model.

Yes, this in theory is great. However, why not put that money toward improving the cars people already drive? I know, I know, our auto industry is in trouble. But I have one solution. Yes, it’s off the top of my head, and yes, it has no cost benefit analysis attached, but I still think it’s worth sharing. I put this to you, auto companies. Why not partner with an organization like Lovecraft and help transition “clunkers” into perfectly healthy, uber efficient vegetable oil-guzzling roadsters? $3,500 is more than enough. I say this creates jobs AND a new market for veggie oil outlets …Bah, I know why. Because auto companies, like oil companies, need us to remain dependent on them. They can’t have us running all willy nilly using waste to get around town.

On a more serious note, I am curious: Do the carbon emissions savings from improving gas efficiency outweigh the waste (not to mention now wasted energy) that those “clunkers” become after dealerships take them in? I am sure they are recycled. But the energy used to make them in the first place was already spent. So is using more energy to turn them into parts for something else really saving the planet? Maybe that is a silly paradox, but it’s worth pondering. There is a math problem in there somewhere. If 10 people get rid of 10 working Hummers and each of them buy a Prius, then the energy spent is 10 X the energy used to make the Hummer + 10 X the energy used to recycle the Hummer + 10 X the energy used to make the Prius. Compare that to the amount of energy spent per Hummer across the next, say, 10 years each Hummer would be driven … maybe it evens out, maybe it doesnt? Food for thought. Or energy for thought. Your thoughts?