Saturday, April 16, 2011

Farewell For Now

Well, this has been a long time coming.

After much consideration I have decided to formally end this chapter of Sustainable Sakonnet and stop publishing at this blog.

The reality is: It's kind of been ended for a while now. Since launching The New Pursuit about a year ago, my writing focus has been there as I've been exploring bigger and broader things related to this interesting mix of Life, Nature and Being. Couple that with my not-so-new-anymore bi-weekly column called "Simple Green Living" in the East Bay Life section of the Sakonnet Times (and all the other community papers under the mantle of East Bay Newspapers), and I no longer have the bandwidth to write here.

Beyond that, I continue to look for ways to simplify my life -- both online and off. Even though I wasn't publishing here all that often, having this sense of formal closure will help me peel it away for good.

Who knows? At some point, it might make sense to bring Sustainable Sakonnet back. But for now, it's farewell.

And with that I'd like to thank the countless people who have taken time to stop by, read and comment; those whom have given me well-wishes around town for the effort here the last four-or-so years; those who work so tirelessly in their own ways to make Sakonnet more sustainable for generations to come.

Until next time, thanks and be well. Feel free to stop by The New Pursuit at any time and say hello.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

15 Simple Ways to Go Green and Save Green


[Editor's Note: This is a companion piece to this week's
Simple Green Living column in East Bay Life. Simple Green Living is my new bi-weekly column dedicated to sharing all things related to simple and sustainable living.]

What’s better than embracing a more eco-friendly lifestyle to ensure our planet’s resources are around for countless generations to come? Keeping a few more of our hard-earned dollars in our pocket in the process.

That’s the beauty of simple, green living. It’s a win-win for all: Ourselves, our communities and the planet we all call Home. And if you’re like our family, finding ways to sock away a few more dollars each month opens up all kinds of opportunities – from paying off debt to supporting to a local charity to saving for that not-so-far-off college tuition bill.

Sure, whether because of simple supply and demand or (unfortunately) the result of over-zealous and misleading marketing, going with the green option can be more expensive in some cases. But many times, you have to separate need from want, fact from fiction and look at the practical long-term return on your ‘investment’.

What follows are fifteen simple ways you can go green and save money.

Getting an energy audit for your home is one of the best ways to identify opportunities for savings. If National Grid is your energy provider you can get a free home energy audit through RISE Engineering.

While you’re waiting for that, here are a few more practical steps you can take:
  • Replace as many traditional incandescent light bulbs as you can with compact fluorescent (CFL) ones. They use about a quarter of the energy and last around six times as long. Just remember: CFLs contain small amounts of mercury so you have to dispose of them correctly. Rhode Island residents can drop off used CFLs at any Eco-Depot event. Massachusetts residents can search here for drop off locations near them.
  • Install a low-flow showerhead to conserve water and the energy to heat and pump it. Don't forget: Taking shorter showers helps too!
  • Wash your clothes in cold water for all cycles
  • Why pay to keep your water super hot all day long? Turn down the temperature of your water heater to no more than 120 degrees.
  • Did you know that clothes dryers account for about six percent of your home’s energy usage? Put up a clothesline and line-dry your clothes instead. For more green laundry tips, check out Project Laundry List, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of greener laundry practices all around. 
  • Install a programmable thermostat to better control fluctuations in temperature and avoid over-heating (or cooling) when you’re asleep or not home.
  • What’s your favorite vegetable? Try growing your own this summer. For less than $2.00 you can get enough seeds to grow more tomatoes than you can shake a stick at.
  • Simplify your arsenal of cleaners and eliminate lots of toxic chemicals in the process. With simple, natural ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar you can clean almost anything. Find recipes here. 
  • Replace old, inefficient appliances with new, EnergyStar-rated versions. You may even be able to take advantage of a tax credit too. Learn more at the EnergyStar website.
  • Do we all need a shed full of yard tools? Save on big ticket items by setting up a tool share or swap program with your family or neighbors. You might be able to throw in a bit of bartering for good measure too.
  • Everything from appliances to DVD players to cell phone chargers use small amounts of energy even when not in use. Avoid these ‘phantom energy’ situations by unplugging them when they are not being used.
  • Try your hand at making your own laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent
With gas prices on the rise again, there is no better time to green your transportation.
  • Keeping your car in shape can help it run more efficiently and save on gas. Simple steps like keeping your tires properly inflated and your air filter clean can help. For more tips check out this wikiHow article.
  • If your commute is on the longer side, find someone to carpool with. Switch off cars and driving every other week and you’ve instantly cut your monthly gas consumption in half – and kept a bunch of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere too. Live or work in RI? Check out this RIPTA program for carpooling opportunities. Live or work in MA? Check out massRIDES.
  • Avoid lots of little trips by batching your errands by general location
  • Take public transportation if and when you can

This Week’s Micro-Action: Take one tip from the above list and do it. From there, commit to adding one more per week. If you like the results, share them with a few of your friends.

What are some of the things you’re doing to go green and save money in the process? Feel free to leave a comment below and share.

Be well,

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Is Suburban Living a Matter of Trade-offs?


A few weeks back, my friend Nate gave me the heads up on a story from USA Today about a study that concluded that walkable communities have happier people.

It seemed logical enough so I went off to calculate Tiverton's own Walk Score. Guess what? My fears were realized when our score came back: Zero. Zilch. Nadda. Our community is not walkable according to this tool.

It makes sense. Aside from areas like North Tiverton, Main Road and the Commons in Little Compton, there is little in the way of sidewalks and other alternative transportation infrastructure to get your human-powered transportation on. Sure, you don't need nice neat sidewalks to head out for a walk, but between the craziness of back-road drivers and the lack of destinations, there is little incentive to leave the car at home.

When talking it over with my wife, we launched into a broader discussion about the trade-offs of suburban living in the Sakonnet area:
My Wife: "The suburbs are all about trade-offs."
Me: "Yes, but..."
My Wife: "You don't have sidewalks, but you do have a big yard to garden."
Me: "I know. I do like that."

My Wife: "And we have good schools. And the ocean. And..."

Me: "Agreed. But we should be able to have it all..."

And so it went. If life is about navigating the give and take of everyday living then shacking up in the burbs certainly presents you with some challenging terrain.

Here are a few more supposed trade-offs that come to mind:
  • More open space versus having all your shopping needs fulfilled in town
  • Yards for kids to play in versus having to head to the community playground or park
  • Having the ocean at your back door versus being landlocked on an urban island
  • Farms and farmers bolstering our local food infrastructure versus shipping all our food in from miles away
I'm sure you could think of many more. But does it have to be that way?

Could suburban living ever be transformed to one of true sustainability -- both at the individual household level and the collective community level? What if very real and tangible scenarios -- like steep rises in the cost of gasoline -- forced us to redesign how we went about our day-to-day? Should we be proactively planning for these things through something like a Transition Initiative or wait and cross that bridge when (note: not 'if') we get there?

What do you think? Were there conscious trade-offs in your decision to live in the burbs? Do you wish anything could be different? Is the Best of Both Worlds a pipe dream?

Be well,

P.S.: If everything sticks to schedule, my new bi-weekly column, Simple Green Living will debut in next week's East Bay Life section of the Sakonnet Times. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think. Thanks!

[image: andygeek]