Thursday, August 30, 2007


If there happens to be anyone out there who wonders where I've gone - a hint: it involves liquidating bank accounts and a truck.

Yes, we bought a house.

Here is a picture of our new home:

So that's what I've been busy doing. Now comes all the unpacking, decoration, etc. I've just started putting up some photos, organizing bookshelves by color, and just getting things out.

I've been getting rid of a LOT of things, so the Seven Things lists are on hiatus for now! I'll catch up when I can get a real list together.

Projects that have emerged? I've found that I need to recover some furniture and other cushions with fabric to match my new airy home (not my usual deep red and tons of eclectic, dizzying prints in dark colors). I'd like to eventually repaint. Some gardening.

I also have a lovely new apple tree in the backyard. Lovely tangy macintoshes (I think)!

(photo by a friend's 4-year old daughter - isn't she quite the budding photographer?)

Eco-tip: Corn ethanol is not all it's cracked up to be, and is likely WORSE than gasoline. Read about all the dangers, vow never to use it, and find a great alternative.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ninety percent

A while ago I posted about the Riot for Austerity 90% Emissions Reduction Project.

The idea is to reduce your emissions by 90% - to 10% of that of the average American or East European.

Here are the amounts that 10% should be, and our household usage:

Gasoline - 50 gallons per person per year
- I'm stopping car use to get to work, but dh still drives 20 miles a day, and we go about 50 miles each weekend, and with our 45mpg car, that comes out to about 180 gallons a year, or 90 gallons per person. Of course, any bus trips and long distance trips are additional. A long way to go to reduce, which might mean not driving..

Electricity - 90kwh per household per month
- We use WAY more than this - average 250 kwh per month over the year. We will see how that changes over the next year, being a little more careful about heating usage. Need to work on it.

Natural gas - 100 therms per household per year
- We use about 20 a month, or 240 per year. To cut by half? Maybe eat fresh more often (salads and fruit), and use more efficient pots and pans? Work to be done.

Garbage - 0.45lbs per person per day
- We make only about 0.5lb per person per day, since we already compost and recycle pretty much everything. So I'm okay being this close on this one. But it means making no MORE trash.

Water - 10 gallons per person per day
- Our water bill tells us we use about 86 HCFs, or about 64000 gallons per year, which for 4 people living there comes to a whopping 44 gallons per person per day. And we didn't have a lawn for most of the year... More bucket baths coming.

Household purchases - $1000 per household per year
- We spend about $50 per month on items, and since we're not buying clothes, we've only spent about $200 this year on other items. So we are probably pretty close to $1000 per year.

Food - local and organic 70%, dry/bulk 25%, other (still organic) 5%
- We shop for fruits and veggies only at the farmer's market, but milk is still a problem. My estimate is more like 50-35-15. Some work to do.

Eco-tip: Calculate your usage using the 90% guidelines. Where do you stand?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Wal-Mart and Reliance

No doubt many of you have heard of the horrors that Wal-mart has perpetrated on its poor employees, communities, suppliers, and even customers in the name of their lowest-price guarantee. (If not, see Store Wars and Wal-mart: The High Cost Of Low Prices)

Now the culture of Wal-mart is spreading its wings. Reliance in India is now opening a number of hypermart stores. Reliance, a communications company in India that deals in everything from cell phone lines to energy supplies to grain and groceries, is one of India's major mega-corporations. (The movie Guru gives a similar, if biased and Bollywood-adapted, history)

What does that mean for India? It could mean lower prices, of course, for indigent Indians who struggle for necessities. It also means that Reliance has managed to muscle out giants like Wal-mart from the Indian marketplace, for the time being. But it is also likely to mean further exploitation of an already underpaid labor force, wiping out of the small roadside businesses that are an integral part of Indian life, and an import of lower-quality foreign items to India. (A few articles here, here, and here give different accounts).

Many protests around India have drawn attention to the announcement (while here in the US, we get nearly no news of it!) We can only hope that Reliance will continue to buy within the country (ie, locally!) and will pay fair wages. But is that just the idealist in me speaking?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Defashionista's 12 Steps

This project started as a way for me to curb my fashion appetite, to reduce interest in clothing and fashion, and to stay focused on the more important things in life - not just clothing and fashion and jewelry and accessories.

I've finally gotten to the point where I am supposed to do all 12 steps, so here they are, along with #12, which is new (yes, this is a list. sigh.)

§ Step #1: I will give up old and torn and non-wearable clothes. I will give up all clothing I do not need.

§ Step #2: I will refrain from watching fashion and clothing-related television shows (What not to wear, The look for less, Next top model, How do I look, Ten years younger, Makeovers, etc).

§ Step #3: I will not read fashion magazines, or clothing catalogs, or fashion sections of magazines.

§ Step #4: I will not buy new clothes, accessories, or fabric/materials to make things unless ABSOLUTELY needed.

§ Step #5: I will stop reading fashion websites, including clothing shopping sites. Stick only to 3 of my choosing.

§ Step #6: If I truly need something, I will MAKE IT instead of buying.

§ Step #7: If I cannot make it, I will buy it secondhand. I will check secondhand options before buying new.
§ Step #8: I will avoid window shopping for clothes and accessories.

§ Step #9: I will choose something to wear in under two minutes.

§ Step #10: I will stop analyzing what people are wearing, and I will try to stop noticing them first by their clothes. I will try not to judge others by their clothes.

§ Step #11: Apply rules 1-10 to jewelry and accessories.

§ Step #12: I will find a style that suits me, and stick with it.

This last rule may need clarification, since it hasn't been discussed before. The idea is to find something that suits my style. It means choosing now and in the future things that don't work in my academic lifestyle (like suits and business clothing), things that are too informal or too formal or uncomfortable, and finding ways to wear outfits that suit my personality. For me, this means finding 2-3 "uniforms."

In general they are long bright-colored tops and pants (mostly jeans), long printed skirts and tops, and scarves to accessorize.

This is me. I'm curious to see whether others have these uniforms, and how you all are doing at being defashionistas.

Eco-tip: With all those tossed clothes that don't suit you or aren't your style, donate them to Dress for Success, Goodwill, or any of many other charities. But do something nice for those charitable people - wash the clothes first, and repair any holes or missing buttons.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Seven #25

A Friday seven actually posted on Friday? Gasp!

Okay, not too much, but here it is:

- a tv stand (freecycled)
- a glass coffee table (to a friend)
- a lazy susan (to a friend)
- pack of greeting cards (freecycle)
- unused laptop bag (to dad who wants one)
- scarf (to mom)
- utensil holder (to sister)

Just exactly 7, which makes a total of 326.

Incoming: incomplete skirt from mom (she was helping me with a refashion), and a replacement utensil holder that better matches my kitchen from mom. That kind of makes my Seven Things only 5, but we won't think about that right now!

I also tossed a bunch of old spices and empty yogurt containers and papers and some things that were lent to me and little tiny things around the house I forgot to note down.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Reducing and Seven #24

I've been reading No Impact Man and thinking about it seriously. I found out about it, along with this great project to reduce our emissions to 10% of that of the average American from Gaia Girl. I did a few calculations, so I'll let you know my numbers and what I think I can accomplish in that regard in a future post.

So anyway, here is my missed week's Seven Things #24:
1 pack greeting cards
old notebooks
2 curtain rods and brackets
piece of ribbon
2 salwar bottoms
3 saris (1 to change into curtains)
4 tops
1 salwar top to amma to fix
cushion cover
religious photos
old address labels
circular glass from table

that makes 19 for a total of 319

This week is moving along as well - in prep for MOVING (surprise! more on that later)

Eco-tip: Check your energy bill - it often summarizes how much electricity, gas, and water you've used over the last year. See when you spend more (heat in the winter, lawn watering in the summer). Awareness is the first step to conservation!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Green Crazy

§ First, please note the new layout. Slightly more logical. I've also added a section of "Free downloads" that I've posted before. Hope you like em!

§ I'm obsessed with the articles of George Monbiot.

Take this one on outsourcing to India - it's only fair, isn't it?

Or this one on how organic farming actually gives greater yields

Or his lovely line from Carmageddon:

Why is it that doing what we know to be right is always so hard, while doing what we know to be wrong is so much easier?

Here are his Top 10 tips to save the planet from burning

As I get ready to stop using my car to get to work and want to switch to using the bus or bike, I am searching Google maps for an easy walking or biking route. I want to find out when I should leave to get there on time, and what's the latest I can catch the bus. I need to be sure I won't get run over by aggressive cars as a first-time bicycler.

Or read this one on the sub-specialization of science and scientists

As a scientist, I consider my role - working on a small problem that may or may not impact those affected by disease, one that may in the future be funded by a pharmaceutical company, and one that continues to eat up resources as I perform my job every day. Two more articles on this here and here

How can a person reconcile these?

Well, I won't be quitting my job today, but I'm trying to make it better. In the meantime, as a scientist, it's important for me to educate others about science and it's my responsibility to look at biology more globally. So I'll occasionally post some info here on some popular science topics - explained in words real people can understand, and with a more holistic view for the world (ie why should you care). What do you think? Worthwhile for you?

Eco-tip: Ditch buying water bottles, if you haven't already. Instead check your water quality report and fill up a glass or a bottle from the tap (or use a tap-mounted filter if you must - this is nearly what Aquafina and Dasani are anyway! See here). It's yummy in many places and actually safe to drink. Not to mention all the plastic you'll be saving.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Birthday gift

§ Since it was my birthday, I thought I'd pass it on by offering you a little tiny gift - some printable pen designs you can use as labels or stickers or whatever.

So, here you are:

§ I am so curious about other people's tops and bottoms so I'm waiting for responses (hint hint).

§ I drew this up for this week's Illustration Friday (Theme: Moon) It's more of an idea than a drawing...

§ In the meantime, while purging from our house, I found two amazing articles (Eco-tip of the day):

From Seventh Generation, on how being socially and environmentally responsible is actually better for business Link

And this great article by George Monbiot, on how buying green isn't enough, we need to buy and consume LESS Link