LJWorld Green

Simple sustainability: Energy-saving changes you can make today

April 16, 2012


Solar installer Matt Gammon prepares to lay one of the 224 solar panels within a grid on the roof of the Poehler Building, Eighth and Delaware streets, on Thursday, April 12, 2012. The building is in the process of being converted to artist lofts. Each panel will produce 255 watts of power.

Solar installer Matt Gammon prepares to lay one of the 224 solar panels within a grid on the roof of the Poehler Building, Eighth and Delaware streets, on Thursday, April 12, 2012. The building is in the process of being converted to artist lofts. Each panel will produce 255 watts of power.

Whether you call it global warming or climate change, science has become more definitive than ever: Humans are harming the Earth.

Since before Al Gore dazzled with his PowerPoint presentation, from individuals to industry, there has been an endless fount of ideas, large and small, to minimize humans’ impact on the Earth.

Most local residents will not go out tomorrow and convert their cars to run on vegetable oil or mount solar panels on their roofs — although both of those would help the Earth.

Here are some no-cost and low-cost quick fixes that anyone can do, starting today.

Start at home

Environmental experts say that taking action to help the Earth is more about changing behaviors than anything else.

“We know that if you have identical houses with two different families living in them, they can have vastly different energy use,” said Aron Cromwell, Lawrence city commissioner and owner of Cromwell Environmental. “It comes down to how those people choose to use or not use energy.”

Although most people remember to turn off the lights when they leave a room, Cromwell says that the same conscience doesn’t always carry over to when people are away at work or on vacation.

Cromwell closes his blinds in the summer months to keep out the hot sun. In the winter months, he closes his drapes to help insulate around his windows.

Also, when you are away for longer periods, Cromwell says to make sure electronics are off; additionally, turn off the power strip that connects them.

If you are not sure you can remember to close the blinds or turn off power strips, try something automatic: a programmable thermostat. That way, once you program it, energy use goes down during the times you need it least — when you’re sleeping or not home.

For those who don’t already have a programmable thermostat, Cromwell recommends taking advantage of Westar Energy’s WattSaver program to receive a free thermostat that can be controlled through the Internet.

“Where you set the thermostat can have a big impact on your utility bills and how much energy you use,” Cromwell said. “You should work on changing your comfort point in your own house by a few degrees.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the household appliance that uses the most energy is the clothes dryer. In the past few years, there has been a strong movement toward encouraging people to air dry their clothes, either on a clothesline or drying rack.

Project Laundry List is a website dedicated to the cause, and according to the site, if all Americans were to air dry their clothes, they would save enough energy to close several power plants.

In addition to those suggestions for your home, Cromwell says there are two relatively small investments for homeowners that also can save both significant money and the Earth: The first is to add insulation to your attic, and the second is to go around your house with caulk to seal cracks around windows.

There are some everyday items found in most kitchens that can be an alternate, green approach to cleaning windows and other surfaces in the house.

There are some everyday items found in most kitchens that can be an alternate, green approach to cleaning windows and other surfaces in the house.

Clean house

Kim Scherman, Kansas University student and president of KU Environs, says that switching to environmentally friendly cleaning products helps the Earth by not sending chemicals into drainage systems and rivers. They also can be better for your health.

“People think if they don’t buy Clorox or something similar, their house won’t be as clean. It’s just not true. Honestly, you don’t even know what’s in it and how it could affect you,” she said.

She recommends going online to look for eco-friendly cleaning solutions and home remedies for stains and tough dirt. Most, if not all, of the ingredients can be found in your pantry.

Two effective cleansers — to be used separately — are plain white vinegar or baking soda.

Mix one part vinegar with four parts water to clean the stove and countertops, mop the floors or wash windows. Shake baking soda and a little water onto stains or grime, let it sit a few minutes, then scrub.

Scherman has stopped using paper towels in her home altogether and instead uses cotton washcloths. If you can replace your household’s dependence on paper towels, your contributions to landfills will diminish dramatically, not to mention decreasing the deforestation and chemical processes in paper towel manufacturing. The same goes for other disposable disinfectant wipes, mopping pads and toilet sponges that will go in the trash after one use. Use old T-shirts or socks as cleaning and dusting rags, and throw them in with the next load of laundry.

Wrap it up

Scherman’s two favorite reusable materials around the house are aluminum foil and glass. She recommends using foil instead of disposable plastic baggies to pack lunches or keep food fresh. She saves her foil and hand washes it with her dishes so she can use it again. If it tears or deteriorates, it can be recycled.

She uses glass containers to store leftovers and hold drinks at home, and she recommends having a reusable water bottle instead of purchasing plastic bottles of water.

“People are into being green,” Scherman said. “I think it’s exciting for people to take small steps to change and be able to say they’re environmentally friendly. Do things you can feel good about.”


sad_lawrencian 5 years ago

Cromwell neglects to mention that those 'free' Westar Energy 'WattSaver' thermostats, while being electronic and programmable, also give Westar control over your air conditioning during the summer:

"Demands...are highest from June through September. At these times, we may cycle participants' central air conditioners. Your thermostat will display "SAVING," your compressor will operate [at] 50% of its normal run time...and the system fan will...circulate air. You have complete control over how your thermostat is programmed, except during cycling events."


This is scary and so Orwellian. Westar--you're staying out of my living room. I for one do not support this program and the effort of any utility to control my usage! And neither should anyone else.

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

How is that any different than limiting folks to alternate days to watering their lawns during a drought? That sure doesn't seem Orwellian to me. The goal here is to prevent peak hour electricity usage from dictating that Westar has to build a new power plant just so they can cover those 5 days of the year that they'd need to use it.

sad_lawrencian 5 years ago

I say--build the plant. They're not messing with my air conditioning.

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

Well, then we're not talking Orwellian, we're just talking pathetic.

tomatogrower 5 years ago

We have one of these, and I never notice a difference when they are saving. Of course, we have gotten new windows and done a lot of insulating.

sad_lawrencian 5 years ago

Why is "Earth" capitalized throughout this article? I'm consulting several grammar references and most of them say to not capitalize "earth", especially when referring to "the earth".

“People think if they don’t buy Clorox or something similar, their house won’t be as clean. It’s just not true." Umm. Clorox cleans really well. And you're not taking my paper towels away, either.

Kirk Larson 5 years ago

There's the distinction between "the earth" as the soil beneath your feet and the Earth, the planet as in Mars or Jupiter.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

"Whether you call it global warming or climate change, science has become more definitive than ever: Humans are harming the Earth."

That's complete BS, the product of brainwashing the gullible. A great number of real scientists do not agree with that statement.

Is Emily Mulligan a reporter or an editorial page writer.? Her comments are opinion, not fact.

sad_lawrencian 5 years ago

I see that Emily's name is not highlighted. Perhaps she's a highschool student? For reasons lost on me, this newspaper occasionally publishes articles written by students, housewives, the lawn mower man, etc.

sad_lawrencian 5 years ago

Err that should read, Hyperlinked.

pace 5 years ago

Which scientists claims that humans don't harm the earth. That is a pretty sustainable claim. A little too Woody Allen future humor in your statement. Or don't you cough when they spray your face with ddt? What scientist claims that pollution and poison applied to land or water doesn't do any harm to the earth?

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

Cato's use of the phrase: "That's complete BS, the product of brainwashing the gullible."

should be found in the dictionary under the word "projection" as a prime example.

Or a strong case could be made for placing it under "hyperbole" although stating an unsupported opinion as an undeniable fact doesn't quite match the definition.

jafs 5 years ago

The last sentence is priceless.

  1. We're not "unknowingly" creating problems, we're doing it with knowledge of them.

  2. Why should future generations be saddled with them due to our reluctance to deal with them?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

Fortunately, there lot of scientists out there who understand the data that's been collected and how to interpret it. We don't have to rely on know-nothings like yourself about what we're doing to the planet.

pace 5 years ago

Humans are harming the Earth

DeckDoctors 5 years ago

You're exactly right Cato, must be a brainwashed product of KU School of Journalism.
The natural ebb and flow of heat transferred through space by solar flares is something the self absorbed disregard. The agenda of the left is swallowed whole by lazy people who are into feel good politics that are not based in logic.

pace 5 years ago

The agenda or the left or right, doesn't change the reality that we aren't leaving our camp ground clean. Waste of energy and careless pollution are a lose lose. If you want to burn money don't give it to the grid, give it to Santorum's Presidential campaign. You might think it is a plot, anyone saying you are responsible for what you do. You throw away assumptions and attempt to denigrate all the facts, that will make them go up in smoke. Duh.

pace 5 years ago

Cato, Which scientists claims that humans don't harm the earth

pace 5 years ago

Thought so. You are busted. That did not claim that pollution did not harm the earth. You change the question to fit your bogus claim.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

No, pal, you're the one who's "busted." If you can't understand the meaning of a piece as significant as this one was when it was published, that's probably why you believe that "humans are harming the earth." That's what the writer of this column originally claimed, which was why I correctly asserted that this piece should have appeared on the editorial page.

What you just posted, i.e.the notion that "pollution harms the earth," isn't even what she said, which was "humans are harming the earth."

You couldn't even remember what I was talking about, which is more evidence that you aren't even able to understand what these distinguished scientists said.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

I see that you still haven't developed the ability to read.

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

Cato, I've developed the ability to read, so you're in trouble. Once again, I don't expect that you'll be able to come up with a cogent conversation about the topic once someone challenges your "facts," but I always hold out some faint Quixotic hope that it could happen.

In that light, I offer a comprehensive critique from the Real Climate folks of the letter from 16 scientists who claimed that climate change is nothing to worry about. In the critique, Mr. Bickmore methodically picks apart the assertions of those 16 scientists, who, by the way represent a tiny minority of scientists in their assertion that climate change is unimportant. Science being what it is, though, even minority opinions deserve a detailed analysis, which Mr. Bickmore provides. I hope you continue to utilize your reading abilities and critical thinking abilities and read the following link, and if you care to discuss the topic further, then let's do it:


cato_the_elder 5 years ago

I'll take the word of sixteen distinguished scientists over that of one more deluded glowarmer any day. If you want to agree with his opinions, that's your right. I'll go with the gentlemen with common sense, thank you.

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

Suddenly--credentials and numbers become more important when we're talking about 16 to 1! Stop the presses! But when you compare those 16 to the thousands of even more distinguished scientists who disagree with those 16, doesn't that kinda nudge your thinking over the cliffs of Hypocrisy? Do you really want to go down that path with me? Just let me know.

Or: here's another novel idea: how about instead of looking at who said it, look at what they said? Can you explain to me why the Real Climate critique of the WSJ piece is off-base? Umm hmmm, thought so.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

Can you explain to me why this isn't simply your opinion vs. those of many others, as I've previously stated?

Thought so.

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

So are you asking me to go down the path of who believes that humans are influencing the climate? And that it's not just my opinion?? Really???

Before answering your request, which I most certainly can do, I must ask you a question before I decide if this is a waste of time, since I've offered you cogent information in the past that you've just ignored:

What kind of evidence, if any, would you consider to be valid evidence, i.e. what would you consider compelling evidence that there may be some merit to the conclusion that so many climatologists have come to that humans are impacting the climate?

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

Credible scientific evidence from real scientists whose goal is not the redistribution of America's wealth around the globe. After Climategate, it became clear that you don't have any credible evidence. What you do have, as I've earlier stated, are merely the opinions of those for whom anthropogenic "global warming" is a religion. That's fine, as long as opinion isn't represented as fact.

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

So you have decided that the emails from the East Anglia lab reveal a conspiracy that not only affects the temperature records they were in possession of (and were cleared of malfeasance 5 or 6 times by independent reviews--I lost count); it also reveals by some mysterious extension that the analyses from GISTEMP and NOAA/NCDC surface temps are under the same orders obfuscate in order to redistribute America's wealth, as are the MSU satellite temperature data, the sea surface temperature data, the stratospheric temperature dataset, the NSIDC sea ice coverage data, the CDIAC radiosonde data, the CERES cloud and radiation products, the NASA/U of Colorado sea level data, the AEROCOM aerosol data, the CO2 data from Mauna Loa and other stations, the Rutgers snow cover data, the GLIMS glacier data, the Ocean Heat Content data from NODC, the ocean CO2 content from CDIAC, and the climate variables and indicators from NOAA and GCOS.

Of course, these are only the processed data sources and I could include another list of raw data sources. But you actually believe that all of these places do not provide credible evidence and do not have real scientists and are committed to redistributing America's wealth around the globe? Does this grand conspiracy involve the exchange of blood vows? Sacrificial animals? Please do provide me with more details.

If you truly are writing off all of these sources and all of the data, then there is nothing more to discuss, and you are hereby charged with being beyond the pale, bamboozled and no longer credible on this topic by anyone with a head on their shoulders.

You do have a choice to rejoin the real world at any time, however.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

Interesting how the mere mention of Climategate caused you to blow a gasket. You'll never be able to explain it away, but I enjoyed the fact that you posted your longest rant yet trying to do so.

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

I have no problem with the Climategate incident because it has been completely exonerated 5 or 6 times. What I find fascinating is how you can manage the mental gymnastics to blow off all of the other datasets that bolster the case for human-influenced climate change because of a handful of emails from East Anglia.

The degree of self deception involved in that is truly breathtaking. Sorry to have mistaken you as someone who is actually something besides an ideologue. But as I have said earlier, the data isn't going away and indeed will only get stronger, and you can choose to actually consider it anytime you can take off your indeological blinders.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

In that regard, I'm considering taking up a collection to buy you a mirror so that you can see yourself in it.

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

I look in the mirror every morning and I'm proud of what I see: someone who honestly looks at things as impartially as possible, with as much objectivity as possible.

The dialogue above has proven to me that you are playing like you know what you are talking about when in actuality you blow off entire categories of information that are relevant to understanding something as complex as climate change. Doing this to yourself is your choice and I respect your right to do that. But to stand up and proclaim a conspiracy of ridiculous proportions, using any and all manner of slander to attempt to discredit the science of climate change and the importance it holds is something I will challenge you for what it is: lazy dishonest thinking. You have proven this to me and anyone who cares to read this sequence of comments as well as in other places so I must thank you for revealing your true colors.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

And your "true colors" are still your inability to distinguish opinion from fact.

tomatogrower 5 years ago

So Cato, you have no impact on the earth at all? Do you live in a cave? Were all these fields and buildings there before man came along? Old forests are never cut down? Highways always existed? Oh, I forgot, conservatives believe the earth is only a few thousand years old and didn't exist until god created man. Totally illogical. I guess when we are living in a cesspool of you and your buddies' wastes maybe you'll change your mind. Of course, that will be in your grandchildren's day, and you could care less about their future.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

I never said that humans have no impact whatsoever on our planet. You're having as much trouble reading the English language as Pace apparently does. What the reporter said was that humans were "harming" our planet, an unsubstantiated opinion that I merely pointed out should have been placed on the editorial page.

Moreover, I care a great deal about the future of all who will follow me. That's precisely why I'm working vigorously to defeat Obama in November and not allow him to destroy the liberties Americans have enjoyed for over 230 years by supplanting our economic system with European socialism.

As I've often said, you should stick to growing tomatoes. You're out of your league discussing politics.

tomatogrower 5 years ago

You care about money, not the environment. I think that has been pretty obvious. I guess if you have enough money in the future, you may be able to buy clean water, while all the low life slaves die early from dirty water. Better pick your slaves well. They will be serving you the water.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

The only way that could happen would be if naive, uneducated, gullible people continue to vote liberal Democrats like Obama into office and they spend us into oblivion, destroying our economy in the process.

Obama has already engaged in deficit spending of over $5 trillion in less than 3 1/2 years in office. That $5 trillion represents more than all of Obama's predecessors in the White House combined. If you want to hasten the advent of dirty water, then by all means vote for Obama again.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

Did you have more drivel to offer, having ended your sentence with a comma?

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

I've proven the untruth of that, founded on your apparent inability to read.

pace 5 years ago

You claimed scientists denied "Humans are harming the Earth.". cato is just busted.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

Looks like I'll have to spoon-feed it once more: What you earlier posted, i.e. the notion that "pollution harms the earth," isn't what the letter writer said, which was "humans are harming the earth."

You changed horses mid-stream because you didn't even remember what I was talking about, which is, again, more evidence that you don't have the reading comprehension skills to discuss this issue.

pace 5 years ago

Will you be changing your name to Cato the busted?

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

You're nothing but a parrot, albeit a busted one. You'd look quite in place sitting on the shoulders of a real pirate. An apprenticeship with Obama would be a good start.

pace 5 years ago

Humans are harming the earth. You claimed scientists disagreed. You sited an article that did not say humans weren't harming the earth, your claim was busted. You then denigrated and twisted. You are busted.

cato_the_elder 5 years ago

Pace, anyone who uses the word "sited" for "cited" and doesn't know the meaning of "denigrated" is busted from the start.

Sorry, pal. You're a toasted parrot as well as a busted one.

Flap Doodle 5 years ago

A proper gander if ever there was one.

pace 5 years ago

I have almost no use for paper towels. I cut up old cotton clothes, socks, etc and use them. Works better and if they get too messed up I toss them. Cheaper and better. Why someone would equate their manhood with using paper towels is goofy. But they do.

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

False, You have to look at the globe as a whole, not just a glacier here or there. As you recall, while we were having one of the mildest winters in recent memory, parts of Europe was in the icebox. That's why careful data collection is so important. If you're really interested in sorting out all the details of climate change, a good place to start is www.skepticalscience.com which helps you sort out the wheat from the chaff in this area where there is almost unanimous agreement in the scientific community that the climate is being affected by human activity, but the media driven public is much less certain.

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

You apparently didn't read my statement closely enough. Your google of a few glaciers adding mass doesn't show anything close to a global trend. So why don't we look at that:

"Using satellite measurements from the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), the researchers measured ice loss in all of Earth's land ice between 2003 and 2010, with particular emphasis on glaciers and ice caps outside of Greenland and Antarctica.

The total global ice mass lost from Greenland, Antarctica and Earth's glaciers and ice caps during the study period was about 4.3 trillion tons (1,000 cubic miles), adding about 0.5 inches (12 millimeters) to global sea level. That's enough ice to cover the United States 1.5 feet (0.5 meters) deep."

Here's the link: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-036#4

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

Yeah, the 'something you are referring to is looking at the data. And it doesn't show that the sun is getting larger, by the way.

Flap Doodle 5 years ago

Start saving now for the coming global urine shortage. Pickle jars make great storage containers.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

Regardless of whether you're a meat-lover or not, the simple fact is that the western diet, especially in Australia and the US, is very meat intensive, and producing all of that meat requires a whole lot of fossil fuel and chemical inputs. As a matter of fact, by the time the burger or steak gets to your plate, it has more petroleum inputs of one sort or another than solar inputs.

Achieving reductions in the production of greenhouse gases will require a dramatic reduction in the amount of meat and poultry consumed, (but that doesn't mean that everyone would have to become vegetarians.)

pace 5 years ago

An article about reducing pollution and energy waste seems to have encouraged the multiple personalities of one poster to blather. Interesting they brazenly change the wording of a quote then argue as if their lie wasn't their own delusion. Brain damage from alcohol poison is a possibility.

Fossick 5 years ago

“People are into being green"

Stewart Barr, of Exeter University, who led the research, said: "Green living is largely something of a myth. There is this middle class environmentalism where being green is part of the desired image. But another part of the desired image is to fly off skiing twice a year. And the carbon savings they make by not driving their kids to school will be obliterated by the pollution from their flights."

Some people even said they deserved such flights as a reward for their green efforts, he added. (from a source) http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/24/ethicalliving.recycling

People are into being green because it's therapeutic. It fulfills their desperate emotional need for relevance. Which is all well and good - making your kid walk the four blocks to school is a good idea whether you're doing it to save the planet or because he's fat.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

So what's your point? That because people are inconsistent and even hypocritical that there is no reason to take measures that protect the environment?

Fossick 5 years ago

Nope, my point is exactly what I said. It's almost never what you wish I would have said instead.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

Just trying to figure out how it fits into this thread.

So do you consider yourself an environmentalist? Is so, is it because you want to protect the environment, or because it's therapeutic?

Fossick 5 years ago

I don't consider myself an environmentalist. To the extent that I do things that make environmentalists smile, I usually do them that way because the results cost less and taste better.

It fits into this thread because once you realize that most people who are trying to be green are doing primarily to make themselves feel better, they are much easier to ignore. I don't feel a burning desire to undercut anyone's therapy. But neither do I feel any need to join it.

jafs 5 years ago

I disagree with that assessment.

That "most" people are doing it primarily to make themselves feel better.

Perhaps helping slow the destruction of the planet also makes people feel good.

And, hypocrisy and inconsistent behavior should be challenged, not ignored, if we want to preserve the environment.

tomatogrower 5 years ago

The conservatives would have us all living on the mountains of their trash soon enough. We have no impact? Try visiting the landfill sometime.

pace 5 years ago

Landfills are designed to not compost material but to stabilize the material as much as possible. Composting is very different. I am just quibbling about your definition of composting.

George Lippencott 5 years ago

There are a bunch of good ideas here that will reduce energy consumption with minimal impact. We had a different solution for power peak usage back in Virginia and we never noticed the compressors cycling. The real issue becomes extreme environmentalist blocking new power generation and causing ever deeper compressor cycling and very hot houses for some. We might also see differential pricing that rewards those who work away from the home at the expense of the elderly, the infirmed, shift workers and those “evil” stay at home moms.

Mixed into this thesis are some interesting notions like not using Clorox. That confuses me as to the goals here. If global climate changes is the issue how exactly does us using other chemicals to keep our home clean contribute anything useful to doing something useful about climate change?? Are we overreaching and mixing culminate change with all the old “Mother Earth” remedies that while potentially reducing our footprint on the planet do little or nothing for climate change??

Fossick 5 years ago

"That confuses me as to the goals here."

It shouldn't. Once you begin with the presumption that the overriding objective ought to be (as the article assumes) to "minimize humans’ impact on the Earth," then footprints and climate change become facets of the same gem. If human activity is by its very nature "harmful," then the ultimate objective is for the last 100k people on the earth to be posting to this award-winning forum via solar iPods from a mud hut Starbuck's while wearing kilts woven from hemp.

It's a bad assumption. My putting in of a dam in one of my fields recently can be interpreted as carving a scar in Mother Earth with oil-powered machinery that's destroying the planet. The fish and ducks who live in the resulting pond would argue differently. But what do they know, since they're just stupid animals that would not exist if Fossick did not impact the planet.

jafs 5 years ago

There's a distinct and important difference between having a small impact on the Earth, which is probably sustainable over time, and destroying it.

The objective of environmentalists is to make sure we don't destroy the planet.

As the human population has grown to immense levels, and our technology has advanced to such powerful levels, we are in real danger of harming the planet in ways we may be unable to reverse (if that hasn't happened already).

Minimizing this by making fun of extreme, imaginary goals doesn't seem to be very useful to me.

pace 5 years ago

I never heard of the religion that credited a man made pound as the creator of fish and ducks. I hope it doesn't also work as a tax dodge. I don't agree with the premise that humans very existence is harmful. I do think some activities of humans are harmful.

Fossick 5 years ago

Jafs: "And, hypocrisy and inconsistent behavior should be challenged, not ignored, if we want to preserve the environment."

Perhaps, but I propose that if one actually challenged all the hypocrisy and inconsistent behavior in the green movement, one would have time to do little else. It would be a lifetime of work to point out Al Gore's hypocrisy or that of Prince Charles or David Cameron. There have got to be more effective things one can do with a life.

But the claim that most people are green because it feels good is not mine, or at least not mine alone. It's researchers at Exeter University who concluded that "People who believe they have the greenest lifestyles can be seen as some of the main culprits behind global warming." One must conclude from such a statement that since green lifestyles have no positive impact on carbon emissions*, green actions are being pursued primarily for the reasons Kim Scherman stated in the above article: "[I]t’s exciting for people to take small steps to change and be able to say they’re environmentally friendly. Do things you can feel good about.”

Small steps accomplish nothing, cost nothing, and make you feel good. What could be better guilt therapy than that?

  • And it must be science if "researchers" say it's true.

pace 5 years ago

What has inconsistency of humans do with the reality of just saving a bit of energy and reducing pollution? Small steps do accomplish something. If you ever raised children or created a business, it is the daily thoughtful things, not some ignore it and blow it off that gets things accomplished. You are lying to yourself that people aren't achieving a difference with small steps. Changing how you behave is self discipline, it is really the most powerful act we have, choosing to live a bit better. Being kinder, thinking about what we do and why. Being responsible has more rewards than the penny on the electric bill or one less thing to toss in the trash.
You seem obsessed with the emotional aspect of how others feel or act. You should take responsibility for thinking,. This hate and anger against people who advocate a more sustainable culture, is nutty. It is really nutty. What if you do, change one little thing in your life. why the fear and anger.?

Fossick 5 years ago

"This hate and anger against people who advocate a more sustainable culture, is nutty."

You keep using those words. I do not think they mean what you think they mean. I have absolutely no problem with people using old socks instead of paper towels - more power to them. I was merely pointing out that, according to people who study these things, they are not actually accomplishing anything other than making themselves feel good.

Do you have hate and anger against rain dancers that don't actually bring rain?

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

Think about what you are saying when you say that according to people who study these things, they are not accomplishing anything other than making themselves feel good. Firstly, it is hugely presumptuous to assert such a generalization that it makes me question the parameters of their supposedly scientific inquiry. How can they possibly have designed a study to measure whether small personal acts can have an impact on the global environment? I'd love for you to provide a link to this supposed study, and I'll bet there are big enough gaps in their study design assumptions that you could drive a coal train through.

Secondly, there is a cultural factor that intuitively counteracts this supposedly scientific conclusion. The energy consumption patterns of parts of the world who do not have access to alternatives to cutting up old clothes instead of using paper towels and the like is a small fraction of what it is in the US. By utilizing many of the cultural patterns used in much less energy intensive parts of the world, folks in the US could clearly utilize much less energy than they currently do and have a much smaller carbon footprint. It's worth noting that many of these "personal actions" were a way of life for many of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents. We have the great advantage of access to materials and technologies that our parents, grandparents and great grandparents didn't have, which means that we have the option of developing and using things that are a hybrid of low energy use and high convenience if we choose to live that way, so no real "stepping back into the stone age" sacrifices mandatory here.

But that's the crux of the issue, isn't it? Without consciously making those kind of choices to live a lifestyle that is lighter on the planet, continuing down the same unconscious path means a tougher, steeper path for those who follow us. And it's also right to say that personal lifestyle choices won't be adequate by themselves to change the course we're on: changes in fossil fuel subsidies, government energy efficiency standards, urban planning, etc. need to reinforce the personal so that we as a society can reap the benefits of the personal choices as a whole.

Fossick 5 years ago

"I'd love for you to provide a link to this supposed study, and I'll bet there are big enough gaps in their study design assumptions that you could drive a coal train through. "

I already did, but i you want it again, here you go: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/24/ethicalliving.recycling

"How can they possibly have designed a study to measure whether small personal acts can have an impact on the global environment?"

Actually, they went a step past people who just look at specific acts to the overall lifestyle of people who engage in those acts. If all you look at is using old socks instead of paper towels, you might reach one conclusion. When you discover that such green living makes no change overall (i.e. people undertke 'harmful' acts because they consider themselves green) then one reaches another conclusion altogether.

jafs 5 years ago

That doesn't link to the study, it links to an article about it.

I looked at it - it's pretty clear it was done in Britain, so any conclusions would be limited to that country, and wouldn't translate to this one.

And, the conclusion you reach is not stated in the article as well - they said that those who are most educated about environmental issues take more/longer flights - this is probably because well educated people tend to make more money, and thus can afford air travel.

Nothing about "considering oneself green".

Also, they mentioned making the small changes so as to offset the flights, not the other way around - I grant it's not enough of an offset.

But nobody said "I recycle, so I can take flights" - they said by recycling, they feel a little bit better about taking the flights.

Fossick 5 years ago

"Also, they mentioned making the small changes so as to offset the flights, not the other way around "

You must have missed this paragraph: "Some people even said they deserved such flights as a reward for their green efforts, he added."

In other words, being self-consciously green often causes (or allows) people to undertake behaviors that offset their green, resulting in no net impact. Which has been half of my argument from the first.

jafs 5 years ago

"Some people" is hardly enough of a sample to generalize in the way you are doing.

Especially in a study apparently conducted in Britain.

Are there people who act in that way? Sure. But it doesn't justify sweeping conclusions, or dismissing all of us who are concerned with our destruction of the planet.

You're a Christian, and a well read one - if I said that Christians aren't well read, because I can find "some" in Britain that aren't, you'd undoubtedly correct me.

Fossick 5 years ago

"Some people" is hardly enough of a sample to generalize in the way you are doing."

It was enough of a sample to allow the researchers to conclude that "Green living is largely something of a myth." (from a source), a conclusion with which I agree.

Do you disagree with that conclusion? And if so, where's your science to back it up?

jafs 5 years ago

Well, first we'd have to see the actual study.

Then, I could examine the very broad conclusions of the folks who are quoted in the article.

Yes, I strongly disagree with your conclusion - if you make that claim, it's incumbent on you to prove it, not on me to disprove it.

Generally speaking, you're usually much more logical and clear thinking than here, so there must be some reason this topic affects you in this way.

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

Fossick, jafs is correct in that your research reference is not about the ineffectiveness of personal efforts to lower carbon footprints, rather it is interviewing folks who take jet trips and how their "green" efforts at home do not offset the carbon debt of travelling by jet. To go from this limited conclusion to your grand generalization:

"One must conclude from such a statement that since green lifestyles have no positive impact on carbon emissions"

is a huge illogical leap that is a gap where you could definitely drive several coal trains through. The article about the research does not counter anything I said above about the effectiveness of personal action and choicemaking on the global environment.

Time to frame your generalizations a lot more carefully.

jafs 5 years ago

Well, I looked at the link.

One obvious possibility is that this study was done, not in the US, but in Britain, given the language in the article.

Whether the habits of middle class British people are analogous to the habits of middle class Americans is questionable.

jafs 5 years ago

Too broad a brush.

There are undoubtedly people using old socks instead of paper towels who aren't offsetting that with flights to Rio.

pace 5 years ago

way too broad a brush. Also I don't see the point, feelings have little to do with the math. Feelings might make you more inclined to do the math. Do the math. My spouse has walked to and from work for 40 years now. When I buy , it is usually used but sometimes I do buy new things. I don't buy much but should I feel it is no use buying used because I sometimes buy new. That is goofy. He has flown 6 times in the same time frame. Should he have driven to work because he doesn't "feel' guilty about flying to see relatives. It is such a conservative gab. that one should not do anything because it isn't enough or doesn't matter. The scream of the right that someone is a hypocrite if one isn't a 100% purest. That reducing eating meat isn't "enough" .for conservatives. If one isn't a vegan, they scream like a guinea "hypocrite" What a bunch of denigrating bull.
Beyond the fact that turning off lights does matter, saving energy and costs, is the idea that living a little simpler, using a little less, choosing the better product is all negated by the 'feeling" it is ok to fly somewhere. omg. How you choose to live is not an all or nothing matter, one doesn't choose on one set of values. I have used styrofoam plate when a church fund raiser has chosen it, but I usually have a little sack of silverware I use regularly and don't pick up the plastic ware.

jafs 5 years ago

Also, if they do go to the extreme of purity, they're then dismissed as extreme.

Seems like a no win situation to me.

But, I would disagree about the flying - it would be better for the environment for people to fly less, in addition to making small changes in their day to day habits.

pace 5 years ago

My spouse has taken 6 flights in 40 years, three round trips. I don't feel the need to justify them. I think that would be silly. I don't think walking over a mile to and from work every word day for forty years as small. Each walk was small, and the benefits were way beyond the gas and car saved. I find it ludicrous that the right wing hang on to fixed up emotional attitude 'studies" that plain common sense should tell you were part of the loaded crap being put out by the Kocholites. If for some there is a valid reason that someone turning off extra lights is "suspect and hypocritical, tell it to the hand. People should not have time for nonsensical blather.

jafs 5 years ago

I don't care about the nonsense from the deniers, having been concerned about the environment for over 20 years, and having acted accordingly.

But, I do think there are those that fail to see the whole picture - flying is very energy intensive, and 1 flight can wipe out a year of small changes as far as impact on the environment.

Your situation is probably different from that.

jafs 5 years ago

One doesn't have to challenge every little example of it - one can challenge people to be consistent, and live their values, generally.

And, one can educate as to the effects of air travel, for example, so that everybody is aware of how destructive it is.

Some people may fit in the category described, but that doesn't warrant dismissing the idea of doing what you can to reduce your damage of the planet, and small steps can't hurt in that regard.

I urge everybody to take those, and to think about them clearly, so that you're not wiping out your day to day improvements by flying twice a year on a ski trip.

Fossick 5 years ago

"And, one can educate as to the effects of air travel, for example, so that everybody is aware of how destructive it is."

The greenies are already doing that - they fly to Rio and from there preach to everyone else about the evils of flight. Then they provide treadle pumps so eight year old girls in the third world can "offset" the granola's ecological sins (from a source) http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/3788/

Such hypocrisy deserves nothing but scorn, and I give it exactly what it deserves. As I mentioned elsewhere, I have absolutely nothing against people who want to use vinegar instead of bleach. Since I'm on a septic tank, I tend that way myself. But the objective "to minimize humans’ impact on the Earth" is not an extreme or imaginary goal, it is the underlying assumption that drives the movement.

jafs 5 years ago

As somebody who's been concerned about the environment, and conservation/mindful living for a long time, I have to say that comments about "greenies" tend to turn me off, as if there's a large group of homogenous individuals all engaged in the sort of behavior you mention.

Since that's obviously not true, it serves no useful purpose.

Hypocrisy is worth noticing and criticizing, wherever and whenever it's found.

And, again, "minimizing" impact is somewhat of an exaggeration - the goal is to reduce impact to a sustainable level.

What that level is depends partly on how many people populate the planet, but it's pretty clear that our current lifestyles aren't sustainable.

I'd be interested in a study showing what the average sustainable lifestyle would be, if you're aware of any - the only thing I recall in that regard is that it would take 4-5 planets to support an average lifestyle of Kansans.

Fossick 5 years ago

"as if there's a large group of homogenous individuals all engaged in the sort of behavior you mention."

There is. Have you really never heard of the Rio Earth Summit? More than 20,000 people from 107 nations flew there to tell us all how bad flight was. You can find it under Earth Summit in Wikipedia is you really care. But I'm not sure how many more people one needs to make a label.

"and again "minimizing" impact is somewhat of an exaggeration"

It's not my word, but of the author of this article, from the second paragraph. So if you have an argument, it's not with me. It's with the author and those who share her assumptions.

jafs 5 years ago

20,000 people from around the world is a rather small amount of people, relative to the earth's population.


Many people seem to want to exaggerate and distort what environmentalists believe and want - I suppose it's easier to do that than to think about the impact of their lifestyles.

Let's take a small example - let's say there are about 500,000 people living in KC. If 1/10 of them are environmentally aware, that makes 50,000 in KC alone - more than twice your Rio number.

Fossick 5 years ago

"20,000 people from around the world is a rather small amount of people, relative to the earth's population."

Is it a large enough group to deserve a label, especially when they are all in the same place ostensibly trying to accomplish the same task?

How many people do we need to justify the label "Kansas City Chiefs"?

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

I'm not sure what you are driving at, Fossick, by pointing out that in 1992, 20,000 individuals came to Rio to discuss the environment, or that 20 years later a similar crowd may be doing the same thing and many of those folks may be flying.

Are you saying that because a certain percentage of these folks flew 20 years ago and will do so again this year, that they are hypocrites? Are you really serious? Did you do an ecological audit of those who flew and compared their carbon footprint over the past 20 years and the impact of their actions in reducing the carbon/ecological footprint in their respective countries? I don't think so.

We all live with contradictions in our lives, and the important thing about that is to acknowledge those contradictions instead of blowing them off, and use that awareness to continuously look for ways to improve the way we do things. You know, the unexamined life is not worth living, and all of that.

So contradictions are recognized in flying to Rio to discuss the imperiled state of the planet. The important thing is to decide what you are going to do about it. The answer to that question is the key to whether that flight was worth it. My sense is that many if not most of those folks returned home and have made a significant difference in their respective circles.

jafs 5 years ago

Well, I might be a little harsher on them than you are.

They could have made a difference without taking that trip.

Ken Lassman 5 years ago

Depends on what you are looking at. If you are just looking at the ecological/carbon footprint of those individuals who flew, you might be able to make a case against a certain number of them. But without those 172 nations getting together face-to-face would there have been the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the myriad scientific and intergovernmental initiatives that have led to much of the progress we've seen the past 20 years?

Once again, you have to look at the entire picture, and while I personally think much more could have been accomplished in the 20 years that followed, I'd bet that we'd be in much worse shape had we just had teleconferences and the like 20 years ago.

jafs 5 years ago

Not if there are a vast number of other people also concerned about the environment who did no such thing.

Why are you so set on painting environmentalists with such a large brush, when common sense and intelligence argue against that?

In any large group, you can almost certainly find some stupid, inconsistent, or hypocritical people - is that really a good reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater?

pace 5 years ago

fossick is a good example of nonsensical blather. he doesn't object to the particulars just hates all those people claiming to think different than how he thinks they think. . omg.I am so tired of nonsense. If you obsess on Hypocrisy and name calling, that is what you have chosen. It is silly and blather. It is not argument.

Fossick 5 years ago

"just hates all those people claiming to think different than how he thinks they think..."

Apparently you think that "ignore" = "hate." I don't hate those who disagree with me. At most I laugh at them and at least I pay them no mind at all. I'm always ready to change my mind, but when the average response to my posts equates to "nuh-UH," what am I supposed to do? Join the unthinking majority that uses old socks instead of paper towels and sleeps well because they have saved the world? Spare me.

I am perfectly at peace with the fact that I alter the world. I try to make it better, but even when I don't, I feel no guilt over my actions. I do not have a Mother nature. At best, she is my sister, to be enjoyed and laughed at and with.

pace 5 years ago

You think my avoidance of paper towels is some sort of radical act, part of (what crap did you call it) part of the "the unthinking majority " ",and that I claim or think it is going to save the world. That shows the caliber of your thought, not my claim not my thought. I think it makes sense to use fewer paper towels, less paper in general but obviously not to you, you go goo goo over the very idea. I just try to live my life the best way I can. You are the unthinking silly person. Your silliness is suppose to achieve what? Suppose to make me argue that using rags will or won't save the world. If you are interested , I think we have spoiled too much of it, I don't know what could erase the damages already done. Why do you present this stupid emotional garbage stream. Your argument and denigration, sounds like fear, is expressed as some sort of hate, I have never seen a grownup fearful over someone using a rag instead of a paper towel. Wow.

Fossick 5 years ago

"You think my avoidance of paper towels is some sort of radical act..."

You give me too much credit, Pace. I think your avoidance of paper towels is symbolism. Nothing more.

pace 5 years ago

You think of paper towels as symbolism, I think of them as paper towels. I don't give you too much credit, almost none. I don't call most people silly.

JerryStubbs 5 years ago

I'm not sure how much energy we can save by abandoning paper towels and using vinegar but reducing the use of electric clothes dryers could make a very big overall energy use reduction.

George Lippencott 5 years ago

Thank you Mr. Stubbs. The more encompassing me made our "green efforts:" the more demanding they seem and the greater the possibility they will be ignored. How about priorities and focus?

Fossick 5 years ago

So anyway, Ive got a Ruger Standard, ca. 1954. I broke it down, cleaned it re-assembled it, and it all checked out. However, when I try to break it down again, the lever comes about 20% out (clearing the latch) and will move no more. Can't push it in, can't push it out. The bolt moves 80% so long as the safety is off. I don't want to force the lever because I don't want to bend the pin, but I'm at something of a loss. Any ideas?

Fossick 5 years ago

Got it. I managed to force the lever up toward the bolt and get it latched. Then when I opened it again it worked perfectly. The autoloader (the original issue) is stall jamming on the 3rd or 4th round, but we'll get it figured out. Carry on.

jafs 5 years ago

A fascinating transition to guns at the end here.

If I were Freud, I might speculate that the topic produces a certain amount of latent hostility, which is expressed in this indirect way.

Fossick 5 years ago

You could do that. Or you could conclude that with the little kids out of town with their mother, Saturday night presents an opportune time to spring clean the more dangerous farm implements.

Fossick 5 years ago

Pace: "Also I don't see the point, feelings have little to do with the math. Feelings might make you more inclined to do the math. Do the math."

OK, one more shot at this and I'll move on, I promise. Jafs asked somewhere (I can't find it at the moment) why I seem so dead set against the little things. I'm not against them and have said so from the start. However, let's do the math.

Someone on this award-winning forum said that we would need 4.5 earths to sustain our current lifestyle, correct? That means, if I'm counting correctly, we are running about 350% too high to be sustainable or need to reduce our lifestyles on the order of 75% impact. Feel free to correct the numbers.

Now, let's throw onto that the last sentence of this article: “People are into being green,” Scherman said. “I think it’s exciting for people to take small steps to change and be able to say they’re environmentally friendly. Do things you can feel good about.”

So how much of a difference do these small steps make? 10%? 20%? Pick a number. Let's say that doing all the fun stuff in the article reduces our footprint from 4.5 earths to 4. Heck, let's be generous and go so far as 3.5. We've done all the fun little stuff and we are now using 3.5 earths.

Are we environmentally friendly now? It's a yes or no question. "Better than before" is not the right answer. At 3.5 earths, we are either environmentally friendly or we are not. We are either sustainable or we are not.

If we are not, do we have any right to tell ourselves that we are environmentally friendly? Should we now, as the article states, feel good about our actions? As soon as we buy into the 4.5 earths, then we have no choice but to accept its consequences, all of its consequences. And one of those consequences is that we are kidding ourselves if we think we are environmentally friendly because we are now only using 3.5 earths. If we are using 3.5 earths, we are not environmentally friendly.* We are horrendously destructive.

That's why I said that most green living is therapy. It makes people feel that they are environmentally friendly when by their own math they are not. It makes them feel good and that they are part of a solution, when by their own math they are not.

I'm not against the little things. If you want to do them, do them. I'm against doing the little things and convincing ourselves that they are big things.

  • And my point in posting the Guardian article was not really the measurements, nor the fact that it was England. It was that it's natural for us as humans, when we think we're environmentally friendly, to act in unfriendly ways that we might not otherwise and which undo our green actions. We all relax when we are convinced we are on top. It's human nature. Convincing ourselves that we are green is, ironically, the easiest way to kill our green.

jafs 5 years ago

That 4.5 earths thing was mine :-)

No serious environmentalist believes that only small changes, by themselves, will fix our environmental problems.

However, they are the easiest things for individuals to do, and they do add up.

So, I urge everybody to do them.

In addition, of course, we need to find alternative sources of energy that don't pollute, and make larger changes.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

Paul Gilding talks about this, and he uses the figure that current rates of growth of the use of resources means that we will need 1.5 earths to meet the demand.

jafs 5 years ago

Hmm - that's not as bad as I had heard somewhere else - I hope he's right.

deec 5 years ago

Americans used to think being frugal and not being wasteful were admirable qualities. "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without." How did this get twisted into our throwaway culture, where some people feel personally insulted because other people are thrifty? Why are people so angry that others don't use up a bunch of stuff? How did stewardship of the planet become altered into destruction of the planet? How did the concept of conservation of the water, air and soil become anathema to the Conservative?

Flap Doodle 5 years ago

Be sure to poot into a reusable bucket.

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