state of support

lady slipper in the upper penninsula, MI

lady slipper in the upper penninsula, MI

Something that has crossed my mind more than once in the last 5 months has been moving to California, where they seem to take environmental protections at least a little bit seriously. Realistically, this wouldn’t even be possible for another 3 or 4 years, but the thought has floated through my head.

It seems like every week, on top of the anti-environmental moves being made by the federal government, our governor here in Wisconsin is trying to keep pace. Trying to remove climate change from the rhetoric. Making it against the rules for government employees to work on climate change issues. Trying to take a century old publication away from the DNR. All of the denial is exhausting. Especially when each summer we watch the effects of more severe weather take a toll on the crops. A state with a largely agriculture based economy should be doing everything possible to preserve our natural resources.

But the answer is not really for us to move to a part of the country where more people already think and act like we do when it comes to conservation and care for the earth. Instead it is to plant our feet firmly here and do what we can on this land. Act as an example of how we can not only preserve nature, but we can restore it. We can make the land healthier with each passing season if we act thoughtfully. And we can do it while both enjoying the beauty of the land, and enjoying the benefits of our 21st century life.

We currently live in a town of about 12,000 people. We live in town, just a few blocks from the town square. Our small house sits on about a quarter of an acre, with neighbors on all sides on similar lots. We chose this house because its modest size is enough for us at this stage in our lives and it means we get to have a big backyard. Even knowing that we were only going to be in this place for a few years, we decided to invest in the small bit of land. We began amending the soil with compost, manure, and blood meal. We planted a substantial garden full of herbs, vegetables, and flowers to attract pollinating and beneficial insects. And we dedicated a few hundred square feet of the yard to a prairie garden, full of native grasses and wildflowers. Over the course of two years we’ve seen birds and butterflies flock to our small space. A reprieve amidst the other lawns and driveways. It takes some sweat equity, but we’ve made a little ecosystem here over the last two summers, and we’re hoping to take what we’ve learned and apply it to bigger lands in the future.

Californians, please keep working to protect our beautiful country. The regulations that you enact are important, and your population is big enough, that businesses have to take note, have to make adjustments to be able to keep up with you. Set the path. And we’ll do our best here to hold down the fort in the middle of the country. To act as an example. To vote responsibly when we have the opportunity.

And to hope that someday soon, our government will takes it head out of its ass.

grappling

sunset in boston

Sunset. Boston.

I’ve been thinking about sitting down and writing again in this space for months now. I’ve been thinking about what I want this space to be. I’ve been thinking about what I want myself to be in our current world, current United States, current environment. And the answer is not clear yet.

But part of the answer seems to still be a voice. Maybe a voice shouting a bit louder than the rest of the din. A voice saying, “Hey, take care. Take care. Take care.”

In a few months we’ll be moving again. Our third move in as many years. With at least one more on the near horizon after this one. Just another 80 miles down the road. Slightly north, slightly west. We’ll say goodbye to our little town, our little garden, our little house. And make a new home. Just like we have in the past, numerous times. Bringing mostly the same stuff with us, and also a few new plants. And we’ll try to put down new roots. And we’ll try to build more earth. And we’ll try to take care. Because this is all we have.

2016

I didn’t necessarily intend to take a 3 month break from this place. It just happened. Life moved along, and I didn’t have the words to put here for a time. But I hope to say hello a bit more often in the new year. I think it’ll be a good one.

The Energy Efficiency Project: Month 8

Energy Efficiency Project month 8

July 13th – August 13th, 31 days

Late July and early August was considerably drier in these parts, so we didn’t have to run our dehumidifier very often. With the dry also came the heat, however, so we definitely were running our ceiling fans for most of this month. On really hot afternoons when the fans just weren’t cutting it anymore I would close up the house and turn on the air conditioner. Once the house cooled down to about 74°F, I would turn off the AC and keep all the windows and doors shut to keep the heat from getting in as much as possible. Usually running the AC for an hour or so would cool down the house until the heat broke as the sun went down.

This month’s upgrade cost: $0.00

Total upgrade cost to date: $26.64

Over 31 days we used 492 KWH. Which comes out to an average 15.9 KWH/day. Compared to the last billing period average of 19.2 KWH/day, you can really see how much electricity that dehumidifier was using while it dried out our basement.

We are part of the Alliant Energy Second Nature renewable energy program, at the 100% level. (In this program you can choose the amount of your energy use that you want to be matched in renewables, and we chose 100%.) The cost of our renewable energy was $0.14 per KWH for this billing cycle, for a total of $69.81

This month we used 0 Therms of natural gas heat energy. Which averages out to 0.0 Therms/day. However we did still have a small charge to keep our gas on this month, and probably also to pay for meter readers and what not. Degree days this month compared to last month: 0 vs. 25

The natural gas market fluctuates in Wisconsin, so there is not an easy dollar per Therm number to give you, but during this billing period we paid $9.90 for our gas use.

Our energy bill also provides these numbers for helpful comparison:

Electricity used this month last year: 159 KWH. This was clearly the month that the previous owners moved out of this house and were just using maintenance electricity while it was on the market!

Gas used this month last year: Unavailable – Again, this is the time the previous owners moved out and put this house on the market, so they may have turned off the gas for the summer. Average temperature this month: 73° F. This month last year: 70° F.

Degree Days this month: 0 vs this month last year: 10. Degree days are the number of degrees below 65° F in one day, all added together for the total 31 days of the billing period.

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Want to see previous months of the Energy Efficiency Project? Here is Month 1Month 2, Month 3Month 4Month 5, Month 6, and Month 7.

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40 Green Actions You Can Start Today

simple green actions to start todayFor the past month I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of a climate change discussion group in my community. We’ve been reading EAARTH, and discussing the realities of climate change both world wide and within our own small part of SW Wisconsin. And we’ve been trying to envision what action looks like for us.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by how big this problem is, and how little it seems like our personal actions are. The Tanzanian’s have a saying, “Haba na haba hujaza kibaba.” Which translates to “Little by little the bucket gets filled,” and that’s important for us to keep in mind. Yes, we may have seemingly little say in the policies enacted within our own states and country, let alone in the worldwide cooperation that is needed to tackle our energy, and resource issues and our greenhouse gas emissions. But we can start taking simple, concrete actions now. And as we successfully implement each habit, it will be easier to take the next step. Little by little, we’ll fill the bucket.

So with those thoughts in mind, here’s a list of actions you can start taking right now to increase conservation, decrease energy use, and reduce your carbon footprint.

40 green actions you can start today

1. Switch out your incandescent light bulbs for LED light bulbs.

2. Plug your electronics into a power strip, and turn off the power strip when you’re not using them.

3. Turn your thermostat up a few degrees now (and down a few degrees in the winter).

4. Sign up for your local power companies green energy program, you’ll pay a little extra for your energy, but you’ll get it from renewable supplies and tell your power company how important it is for them to invest in renewables.

5. Set the temperature on your hot water heater to 120 degrees or lower.

6. Hang dry your laundry.

7. Stop watering your grass.

8. Plant something edible.

9. Shop your local farmers market.

10. Bring reusable bags along for all your shopping trips (not just to the grocery store!)

11. Purchase dry goods like beans, grains, and pasta from the bulk bins.

12. Start a compost pile.

13. Clean with vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap.

14. Walk if your destination is less than a mile away. Work your way up to two miles away.

15. Look for opportunities to carpool or take public transportation.

16. Add meat-free meals to your repertoire.

17. Purchase humanely and ethically raised meat.

18. Unsubscribe from catalogs

19. Unsubscribe from “junk” mailings

20. Refresh yourself on your communities recycling capabilities and look for opportunities to expand your recycled materials.

21. Carry a reusable water bottle or coffee mug.

22. Use reusable bags or glasses for food storage.

23. Eat fruits and vegetables that are in season and grown in your area.

24. Support local small businesses and local trades workers.

25. Shop consignment or second hand stores for clothing, rather than buying new.

26. Share infrequently used appliances and tools with your neighbors, like lawn mowers.

27. Shovel your snow instead of using a snow blower.

28. Set up a clothing swap among your friends and neighbors.

29. Support local conservation by visiting your state parks.

30. Let your grass grow a bit longer between mowings.

31. Purchase “made in America” and recycled materials.

32. Donate your own no longer used items to second hand stores.

33. Cook more meals at home.

34. Make your own coffee.

35. Use mulch on your garden to cut down on watering needs.

36. Wash your clothing on the cold cycle.

37. Switch from paper napkins, towels, and tissue to cloth.

38. Check out books from the library.

39. Sign up for electronic statements.

40. Sign up for electronic bill pay.

Again, these simple actions aren’t going to save the world from climate change, but they will start a habit of mindfulness about consumption and energy use. These small actions can help pave the way for you to start taking bigger actions, and they can start conversations with your neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers.

Do you have others to add to this list? Send them my way!

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