Thursday, October 30, 2014

Survey says that "greenies" will conserve ...

Survey says that "greenies" will conserve ...
Earlier this month, I asked you about solar power.

The question came up because someone told me that rather than conserve, they would just add additional solar panels to their home.

So I wanted to know what dedicated "greenies" would do if all of their power came from the sun.

The answers are interesting and complex:

Survey Results

Survey says that "greenies" will conserve ...

Survey Comments

  • Of course I would still conserve if I were getting all my energy from solar. To do otherwise would mean I had used more rare earth minerals and other elements by buying more panels than I actually needed.
  • The answer is, it depends. If i was 100% solar and was attached to the grid and they were paying me for the extra i was producing then i'd make the attempt to save as much as i could. But, i'd still turn off lights when not in use, because your affecting the longevity of the bulbs. The thermostat? no. again if i wasn't being paid for the extra energy then that is being wasteful. The sun is giving you the energy use it.
  • Why? If the solar power had to be used just for my own home there's no reason. If a traditional power company purchased the unused solar power and in return lowered the cost of energy to its other customers, I probably would. But from what I understand that doesn't occur.
  • I still think everything in moderation is key. I don't think anyone should over consumer anything...take only what you need.
  • I would be donating unused energy to the grid thus saving fossil fuels
  • Solar is not technically 100% renewable energy, given that it takes a tremendous amount of energy and materials to extract, manufacture, distribute, install and eventually, replace/repair/dispose. There are statistics that it takes approximately 4-8 years of 'free, renewable energy' to pay back the energy that it takes to get it to your home. While I am all for renewables, we MUST reduce first. Otherwise, renewables will never be affordable or desirable to the masses. You might enjoy this post:
  • Well, I already do which wasn't an option on this questionnaire :). I wouldn't be changing my current habits. As a side note, solar for my small small home costs about $13-15,000 upfront to have it installed - which for me is not something I have lying around and would take 20 years for me to recup the cost since my electric is only $40/mo averag. While there are incentives and tax breaks, yes, you still have to come up with the whole chunk in advance, which makes it still close to impossible for most working class folks to afford. In Australia it's a microscopic cost in comparison...
  • You know what, I have actually never thought about this before. I guess I'm kind of ashamed to say "no." But I guess society is sold the idea that if something is renewable (or plentiful) then you don't *have* to conserve. Conserving isn't good in its own right, it's only good if the resource in question is limited. But all energy use by me is energy I'm taking from something else. For example, if I power my TV from a power station that's a square mile of solar panels, those solar panels are blocking the sun from reaching the soil, and the bacteria in the soil, and the seedlings that would otherwise be sprouting. The earth is a zero-sum game, it seems. Maybe the idea behind conservation needs to change. Maybe the way it's sold to the public needs to change. Maybe instead of conservation, it could be use-appropriate consumption, or resource sharing, or something that implies balance and cooperation, instead of just staving off the next shortage until the next boom comes along. Thanks for making me think about this question! :)
  • Absolutely! No need to be wasteful, especially if the energy is being stored in a battery for future use. If there's an emergency or a long stretch of cloudy/stormy days that backup power will come in handy.
  • As we are 100% on solar power, and not meaning to be aggressive in my reply, responding to your question from our personal experience the answer depends entirely on what power input you have from your solar panels and what battery storage capacity you have. On cold, but sunny days our panels produce more power than on hot, sunny days. If you are aware that you are in for a couple of days of overcast weather, you tend to use as little power as possible in order to eke out the power that you have available. Once you reach float or absorb stage with your batteries (in our case our batteries are at that stage from +/- 12 noon onwards), you can use whatever power is being produced by your panels freely as your batteries cannot absorb any further charge. I, therefore, tend to switch on my washing machine then ;) One has to plan for those days of minimal power input, more than for the days where power is freely available. Investing in double glazing, manual kitchen / household gadgets, low watt (3 watt) LED lights, A+ (or better) appliances you can live your life quite normally. (Switching off 3 watt light globes when you're not in the room is still a good idea, but if you had ten on at the same time, they combined would only use 30 watts of power / hour, which will hardly make a dent on your battery power during a 4 - 5 hour evening. Basically, getting back to basics and ditching power guzzling air-conditioners / heaters / electric stoves, you shouldn't have a problem. A broom cleans as well as a vacuum cleaner, and a dishcloth in a sink of good hot, soapy water vs a dishwasher, etc - it just requires more effort from the human wielding the appliance :)

My Thoughts

Survey says that "greenies" will conserve ...
I've thought a lot about this question.

One one hand, if we invest in enough solar panels, and they can supply a lavish lifestyle, then why not use liberally?

On the other hand, those panels aren't made out of air ... they require materials. So living large (power-wise) means that resources are being used to build additional solar panels for our lavish use. That seems wrong.

Our new home (a passive solar home) will be equipped with solar and photovoltaic panels. We are installing a net-zero system. That means that the total amount of energy we use, which will come from "the grid", will roughly be equal to the amount of solar energy we create (which will be sold back to "the grid").

You might be wondering why we chose this system as opposed to an "off grid" system.

Batteries which store solar energy are, at this time, expensive and have a short lifespan. Simply put, they are not cost effective for us. Hopefully, one day, they will be less expensive and more efficient. At that time, we'll upgrade and become grid free.

As I mentioned above, we are building a passive solar home. The house's orientation, along with the materials used to build it, will allow us to use nature to both warm and cool our home. With the net-zero system, we have the potential of generating more power than we use. That means that the grid will use less energy from other sources (in my area, most energy comes from coal).

I will continue to conserve so that the solar energy we generate will go that much further in reducing the need for "dirty" energy. If we generate more power than we use, then "the grid" benefits. That makes it very appealing to conserve.

Thanks to everyone who participated and left a thoughtful comment. As always, I learn so much from you!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Change The World Wednesday (#CTWW) - Comfort Zones

Welcome to Change The World Wednesday (#CTWW)!

Wondering how to live greener? You've come to the right place. Each week we challenge ourselves to try a new task ... or "amp up" something we're already doing. We raise our awareness, learn from each other and develop Eco-friendly skills which will improve our lives and protect our planet. Doing so together gives us power ... the power to Change The World!

If this is your first visit, please click HERE for information and a complete list of all the challenges we've taken on so far.

This post contains great information and I encourage you to read through it at your leisure ... however, if you are short on time, you might find the following quick links helpful:

Last week we looked for small things to make a difference. Awhile back my truck was stolen and with it, my glass straw. I don't go out often but have noticed that all restaurants automatically place a straw on the table or tray. So I decided to forgo any straw and just drink the old fashioned way ... straight from the glass. Not only does it save plastic and paper (used to individually wrap each straw), it saves the need to manufacture more. It also keeps these items out of landfills.

The Honor Society are those people who help us spread the "green" word by writing an article about our challenges and/or leaving pertinent comments.

Laurel accepted our challenge and wrote Small Changes for #CTWW. She offers a bunch of creative ideas and even suggests additional challenges for her readers (check out #3).

Argentum Vulgaris doesn't use straws and avoids another "small" item. It's something which a lot of people don't even think about but it does add up to a lot of waste. Can you guess what it is? Find out in Change the World Wednesday – 22nd Oct.

Deborah joined us and said, "With regards to CTWW Small Things, I agree that small changes add up to create a cumulative difference! In our home we are improving indoor air quality by replacing toxic air fresheners with DIY essential oil diffusers and replacing toxic cleaning products with DIY Citrus Vinegars. This post on was designed to help people make small green changes in their daily lives so i am sharing it this week here on Reduce Footprints: "The Green 18: Quick and Easy Tips for Living Green Every Day"

Cinella accepted the challenge and shared this: "I recently bought a pack of reusable straws... gonna make a reusable pouch to carry one in :) " You can read more about that project, including a link with photos, in #CTWW: Challenge Accepted!

Lois stopped by and left these comments: "I have been losing track of the days and missed writing a post for Change the World Wednesday. So a quick recap here, I don't use straws, use as little toilet paper as possible (plus only use recycled paper). I not only turn off lights but have replaced the light fixtures that used three or four bulbs with one LED bulb per fixture, Currently with the house in a constant state of flux remodeling and cleaning I've taken to using the flashlight on my phone to safely negotiate my way through a room late at night instead of turning on the overheads. I have a couple of plants although I lost one in the move, I don't take baths and I changed out the shower hose for a low flow model. Since moving into the new house I've also sold the huge fridge for a small dorm-sized model." By the way, Lois recently wrote a very interesting article on Global Dimming. Have you ever heard that phrase before? Visit her blog to learn more.

Inge' offers several small things in Change The World Wednesday: Small Things. One of her ideas involves newspapers. Very clever!

Mrs. Green has chosen an interesting task to fulfil this challenge: "Thanks for this SF - as ever you've read my mind! This week Mr G knocked a plant off the side and I'm ashamed to say it's still there waiting for some TLC! I'm so embarrassed by my (lack of) actions! So, under your watchful gaze I'm prioritising the repotting job first thing tomorrow... And I have a plan up my sleeve for shower times too ;) How the small things make a difference. Thanks for keeping me accountable!"

In this edition of Shopping Charity, one of your CTWW posts was mentioned. Was it yours?

Alicia dropped in and said, "We are good to turn off lights when we leave a room and we bought some reusable glass straws this past year. By the way they are awesome and really easy to clean! We have had plants in our home for years now and love how they improve the quality of air. We take showers and have a low flow shower head but I can use some improvement in the toilet paper area! I am not bad but could use a little improvement. I don't take long showers but am going to make an effort to cut back at least a couple of minutes for each shower I take. Really good challenge!!"

The #CTWW Gang are those folks who tweet our challenges using the hashtag #CTWW. If you're a Twitter member, I recommend following them ... they share great things. Let's meet them:

@allcollegeplan @andreaptak @artbysandra
@beatepdx @bethcooperart @biculturalmama
@biggreenpen @cannyhighlander @cellomomoncars
@collegegogreen @comusetravels @csevenm_uk
@debsmikdav1 @dieselelephants @doxies22
@eco_novice @ecoexpert1 @ecotique
@envirobooty @factorydpromos @familyfocusblog
@fleurdeb @foggybottomgal @forloveofadog
@freshcleanersaz @givetreegifts @goldforestgrain
@greenqueenofmod @groovygreenlivi @herbgir1972
@irishcarter1 @jnaquins @justanotherhat
@kaitlingarder @kayhahn1 @kriswetherbee
@krmbalclothing @laalicia @ladyjcmuses
@laurelhounslow @lioncontainers @luthienthye
@marjoriemcatee @mzazeela @nolafusion
@organicweave @rainbojangles @rainyofthedark
@rckweddings @realityarts @romerojewelers
@sfcouncil @shiraaichan @shoppingcharity
@sjoecable @spafloating @suppressthis
@therita @theworld4realz @treesgroup
@turningclockbac @urban_mining @whopaysthepiper

My Final Thoughts:

Looking for small things is really about attitude. There's always something more we can do but it takes a willingness to change something we're already doing. Attitude is everything!

Thanks, everyone! If you wrote an article, I Stumbled, Tweeted, Facebooked and posted it on Google +. You can help spread the "green" word by using the share features located below this post.

This Week's Challenge:

Change The World Wednesday (#CTWW) - Comfort Zones
Are you comfortable
with green living ideas?
When it comes to green living, we all have our comfort zones. And that's fine because every effort that we make contributes to a better world.

But sometimes, stepping out of our comfort zone helps us learn something new ... it pushes us to reach new environmental heights.

Here's your challenge ...

This week, step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Need some ideas?
  • Turn off your heat or A/C for a day.
  • Experience life without a refrigerator for a day (or a week) by refusing to open/use yours.
  • Turn off the computer for a day.
  • Go grocery shopping and only buy organic.
  • Skip taking a bath for at least one more day than you normally would.
  • Eat raw, vegan food for day or longer.
The idea, this week, is to force ourselves out of our comfort zones and try something which we've hesitated to try in the past. Who knows, it could open us up to a whole new world.

Are you ready to change the world? I know that you are!

Until next time ...


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Guest Post - Three Reasons Why We Should Still Be Talking about Solar Power

Solar power seems to have been around for ages now, and in fact its beginnings can actually be traced back to the 7th Century B.C. Everyone is aware of its merits by providing cleaner, cheaper energy, and those fully in favour of solar power will probably already have panels installed in their homes and businesses.

So do we really still need to be talking about it if all the information is already out there? With the world an ever-changing place, solar power may be even more important than ever right now. Here are three reasons why.

1. Solar Power is Closer to Home than Ever

The eco-friendly, idealistic vision of a future where everyone’s home is powered by solar power is yet to be fulfilled, but getting your hands on solar panels for your roof is now easier than ever. Companies such as MyFourWalls provide all the information you need and help you to get set up with solar power for your electricity and hot water, along with tailoring payment methods to each individual.

Many countries now have government schemes to help citizens afford solar panels as they attempt to rely less on fossil fuels. Despite first being a novelty, the sight of solar panels on neighbours’ roofs is becoming more and more common.

2. It Will Soon Overtake Fossil Fuels

One day solar power will eventually become cheaper than fossil fuels. That day appears to be edging ever nearer. The Financial Times reported that larger wind farms and solar plants are now cost-competitive with many gas-fired power plants in the USA.

As demand for solar panels increases, their price should drop, further tempting those less reluctant to invest. Even if people get on board with solar power for purely financial reasons, the environmentally friendly effect is not lost.

3. Innovation is Still Happening

The main uses for solar power in homes and businesses are for electricity and heating water. It doesn’t stop there though, with solar power being used for everything from buses to schools and everyday items such as phone chargers.

Research on solar energy is constantly being conducted, so further breakthroughs are likely to make it even cheaper within the next decade. As technology advances, solar power is being applied to that as well, with 3D solar panel printing now on the horizon. So far the Solar Cool Hat has to be one of the worst ideas though.