Attempting to Live a Sustainable Lifestyle in St. Louis

Environmentally friendly decisions are tough

Assessing cold/hot spots in your house December 23, 2009

Filed under: Energy Efficiency,Green Rehab — budint @ 10:16 pm
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Last winter I was frustrated by what felt like pockets of cold air in various parts of my house.  Sometimes it was easy to confirm (like if there was a breeze), other times it might have been my mind going crazy.   This year I ordered the kintrex infrared thermometer instead of going to the psychologist and boy has it made a difference.

Use Case #1:  Take the closet in an older part of our house where the exterior wall is brick. The closet is always cold, some of which i attributed to being cut-off from heat vents.  After shooting the wall and seeing that its temperature was 15 degrees colder than an insulated wall in a different closet I immediately picked up some rigid insulation.  With the rigid installed over the brick closet wall the temp was 10 degrees warmer.

Use Case #2: a long, long duct run in my basement supplies heat to our great room.  Shooting the duct near the furnace showed the metal was around 90 degrees,  however 35 feet down the run toward the great room the duct metal was only 72 degrees.   So clearly i’m able to quantify the heat loss from the long run in the colder basement and thus this is motivating me to insulate the duct.   I’ll post the update after i do the project, but the point is that i would never have known the heat loss was so great without this device.  (see pic below)

kintrex If you’re paranoid about energy efficiency in your house and need to validate your paranoia for yourself or a loved one this is the tool. Runs about $50.

 

St Louis garbage collection problem

Filed under: St Louis — budint @ 9:39 pm
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Managing a densely populated urban environment requires that city governments approach challenges with creative solutions.   Doing so can save the city money and increase the quality of life for its residents.  Consider the curb-side recycling program, the 27 drop-off recycling locations and operation brightside; all good programs that help make this a better place to live.

One of St Louis’ recent challenges however is that twice a week garbage pick-up has become too costly and thus they’re trying once a week service.  The motivation makes sense: save money by reducing fuel costs, truck use and city employee hours.  This approach however doesn’t make sense and has resulted in health and quality of life issues. (see picture)

Alternatives could be:

1) An education and awareness program that gets citizens to think about their trash differently. For example, the above picture shows a lot of boxes and other bulky items that could be broken down or recycled.

2) A study could be done to see what alleys or neighborhoods produce the most trash and specifically target those.

3) Maybe specific dumpsters could be upgraded to larger ones and that would take the load off.

In any case, the refuse department should be thinking more creatively than just cutting pick-ups in half.  Lest the cuts lead to increased litter and decreased community pride, which then takes neighborhoods into downwards spirals when no one cares anymore.

I’m sure the folks at Good Magazine have seen some new unique approaches that cities have used.  Just need the people running our city services to look outside the box.

 

Checking out passive house (garage) design August 13, 2009

Filed under: Energy Efficiency,Green Rehab — budint @ 2:28 am
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During some R&R in North Dakota a couple weeks ago I read this book by Dan Chiras about passive solar homes. The read really inspired me to makes some changes in my home and REALLY think about a number of design aspects in any future dwelling I build (like the garage maybe).

Much of the guidance you could chaulk up as common sense; insulation, air penetration, internal heat gain, but hearing about it in such detail really hammered home some things.  And it also prompted me to buy an  infrared thermometer so that I could understand where there are weaknesses and opportunities.

The book also made me much more aware of how the house and layout behaved during the cooling season. Ideas such as lighter color paint on the west, or best coverage of western windows constantly pops into mind. I also realized my southern overhang is overhung enough as its not protecting my southern windows during this cooling season.   Also subtly frustrated with some of the non-insulative decisions we made on the original part of the house.

All in all, it’s one of the more thought provoking books I’ve read and has really motivated me to do better next time.  And maybe next time is the garage, which we’re starting to discuss right now.

Since passive house design has that sense of being from the 70’s, I’m also trying to follow the guys at 100khouse.com to see if I can learn anything from them on their current passive house German standards design.

 

Starting to compost July 30, 2009

Filed under: Live Green 2.0 — budint @ 3:44 am
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In an attempt to further reduce our waste going to the landfill, I purchased a composting bin from Sam’s club. The quality of the product has left a little something to be desired, but what could i expect from Sam’s for $62?

I haven’t added any accelerators yet, but thought about picking up some worms to get the party started. Really hoping that when progress begins, I don’t have a smell or insect problem.  It’s bad enough w/ the giant bin next to my rain barrel, but you have to make sacrifices, that’s what I tell my wife.

composter

 

Rain barrels should be mandatory July 16, 2009

For my birthday last year my parents sent me a rain barrel. The barrel was a pretty ugly orange and I always got grief about it from my wife.  Not long after we moved into the finished house, I altered the gutter and put the rain barrel into action.

From the first rain fall til today, I’ve never needed to use tap water on the yard plants. The 60 gallons has been sufficient thus far.   There was a dry spell where I went thru all of the water and got worried, but soon after we had a light rain and I was back in business.

One alteration I had to make was the exterior color. As I mentioned, my wife didn’t like the orange and neighbors frequently asked what the orange barrel was (I’m painting the gutter too btw).

rain barrel

My next modification is to buy another rain barrel to catch the overflow of this first one and give myself 120 gallons.  The River des Peres Watershed Coalition offers rain barrels for $60/each.  They’re made from old Pepsi syrup containers and are fitted w/ all the hardware.   I just need to submit my order form.

My conclusion thus far is that everyone should have a rain barrel, as this could significantly cut down on using good tap water for outdoor plants/lawns.  Even if you don’t like the look of mine, retailers offer better looking ones such as this one at Sam’s Club which looks like a giant Terracota pot.

 

My new t-shirt came in a compostable plastic bag July 11, 2009

Filed under: Live Green 2.0 — budint @ 4:27 pm
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I have so many free t-shirts from different events, races, volunteer opportunities and none of them are comfortable. They’re the heavy, rigid cotton that doesn’t breathe.
So in looking for some new summer-time t-shirts I wanted something comfortable, organic and unique. This led me to Skreened where I could get all 3 of these features, provided I bring the uniqueness.  Skreened is one of those ‘make your own t-shirt’ outfits on the internet.  They’re angle however includes organic t-shirts from American Apparel made here in the U.S.  Plus, they have alot  of philanthropic and sustainable initiatives that most ‘make your own t-shirt’ providers don’t have.

One for example is the biodegradable shipping back.  See my bag which arrived several days ago with my new t-shirt.  Maybe one day all of our plastic bags will be compostable, wouldn’t that be neat?

IMG_1326

 

Really impressed by Portland (and Oregon) July 9, 2009

Filed under: General Green 2.0,Live Green 2.0,Transportation — budint @ 4:24 am

I must say that I’ve never liked a city as much as I liked Portland.  It really felt like a place that i could live, granted I wasn’t there for 6 cloudy/rainy months either.  The ethos of the city though is very much in line w/ mine.   The bike cultural, the voluntary adoption of mass transit, the sustainable building practices, the artisan like community, the hybrid cars out the ying/yang, the dual flush toilets in many of the commercial buildings, the urban growth boundary, locally sourced foods, etc. etc.

A few specific examples of what I saw:

LEED certification – There were so many buildings that were LEED certified that it made no sense to take pics of them all.  I read in this NYC report that Portland had 63 LEED certified buildings. The Ikea we went to was LEED certified, so was the REI, our hotel and even a winery we visited.

Ikea of Portland

Ikea portland

Sokol Blosser winery’s solar panels. They were also the first LEED certified winery in the nation.

sokol blosser

Locally sourced food was available/promoted at all of the restaurants (it was a foodie town). Even Burgerville, which I initially laughed at, uses sustainable locally produced food. I mean, have you ever seen a burger chain’s website with wind power, bicyclers and kayaker’s on it??

Though Burgerville was a chain, it was a local enterprise. This theme was very prevalent in Portland and they appeared to be very supportive of their independent businesses.  Another example of this is the downtown Portland food campers.  These are groups of 10 campers on a single parking lot selling really good food for a decent price. (see pic below)

food cartslastly and not least is that Portland favorite non-microbrew beer appears to be PBR.  A city after my own heart.  I never drank one though, because with over 50 microbrews in town, why drink something I can get from my local store for less than $.50/can.

pbr art

We’ll miss you Portland!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 
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