Attempting to Live a Sustainable Lifestyle in St. Louis

Environmentally friendly decisions are tough

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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I heart Portland’s bicycle culture July 3, 2009

Filed under: General Green 2.0,Transportation — budint @ 4:59 pm

While in Portland for the first time recently, I learned how infused biking is into their culture. It’s a phenomenon that any city would be envious of, especially when combined w/ their public transit system.

For our Portland bicycle education we went with Todd owner of Pedal Bike Tours just northwest of downtown.  He offers a range of tours from brewery and coffee cycle tours to old neighborhood and green tours.  We opted for the ‘historic hoods’ tour because we were interested in portland’s old neighborhoods.  We rode around for 3 hours and Todd explained each neighborhood and pointed out all of the unique bicycle friendly features.  Throughout the whole tour i was completely amazed by how friendly, tolerant, whatever you want to call it, that the drivers were.

If you follow biking or bicycle advocacy seriously, none of this is new to you. Portland actually obtained Platinum status last year from the League of American Cyclists last year for being the largest bike friendly metro in the U.S.

portland plat

Needless to say, they have alot of things going for them here that we can’t pull off in St Louis.  Nice weather, hippy culture, better mass transit to tie in w/ biking and nice weather.  Even with all of that, there are still things we can do in St Louis it make biking for common.  Just need to figure out what that is.

Thanks for the ideas Portland.


Long overdue post, lots to say (got robbed, wood floors and more) December 3, 2008

I haven’t posted for a month. Busy, frustrated, depressed, not sure what it has been, but alot has happened over the past 45 days so let me give you the run down and some things I learned.

Got Robbed

On one Sunday evening after we just got the dry-wall up and started painting, some crack-heads kicked down the basement door and cut out the copper wire which hadn’t been tied into the panel yet and cut all of the line-sets for the AC units.  This was a depressing blow as we were already struggling with the budget, the timeline and emotional drain.    The kicker is that they caused so much damage, but probably only got $40 in copper.   The electric has been repaired already, but now the permanent solution is 8 junction boxes in the basement to tie in all of the cut wires (no the ideal solution).    Btw, I have a pretty good electrician whom I’d recommend.

Wood Floors

Our white oak FSC wood floors went down and then we had them finished.  That decision process was tough.   We wanted to go with a low VOC product, which would be a water-based polyeurethane, but our floor finisher would not guarantee his work w/ the water-based product.  After lots of research I determined that St Louis (and maybe all of the midwest) does not have the sophistication necessary with regard to water-based poly.   Thus we went with the oil based poly and felt a little better since the off gassing (so i’ve been told) occurs all at once and not over a period of years.

Even after going with the oil-based, the floor still had a problem with bubbles in the finish (which is abnormal) and we need to have them sealed again.

Silestone countertops

Chose silestone because of the green nature of not using some chemically processed countertop.  They were pricey, but should wear better than those paper-based countertops and look more modern than granite.

Light Bulbs

We needed lots of light bulbs. Canned lights alone are at about 40 in number.  Obviously we wanted to go all CFL, but ran into some constraints.  Some rooms have dimmers and others have motion detection on/off.   Dimmers don’t work w/ the CFL’s I buy and the motion detectors are kind of funny w/ CFL’s cause they always have some amt of electricity going thru them (they don’t work so great).  My logic though is that having lights which turn off automatically when you leave the room, just might equal out the savings as using CFL’s.

Don’t get me wrong, i’m still using lots of CFL’s. I’ve experimented w/ N-Vision from Home Depot, Great Value from Wal-mart and GE Smart Light 10 pack from Sam’s club.   The Great Value bulbs were junk; 2 out of 4 work well.  It’s also been hit or miss w/ N-Vision as I’ve had 2 of 16 burn out right away.  The GE bulbs have been solid though and the light is nice.   The 10 pack from Sam’s club was also very reasonable, so I’d recommend these over the others.

Lastly, we’re going to be pouring our own concrete counter-tops for some of our bathroom vanities. The alure is in the cost and design (but mostly cost).  Been reading that Chung guy’s book, pretty interesting stuff.

Check out the latest pics of the house at the flickr site.


Finally have to make some decisions June 8, 2008

Filed under: General Green 2.0 — budint @ 4:28 am

As you can see by the flickr pics, things are SLOWLY moving along. Some days it rains, others days there are other delays.  I’ve learned that you should count on only about 2-3 days of completed work per week.

That being said, some decisions are on the horizon that the wife and I must make.

1. Wood flooring – some of the wood flooring needs to be replaced because it was exposed to the elements while the roof was off. This needs to be done for a couple rooms.  With this new decision, we’re torn btwn choosing FSC nearly locally harvested oak or going w/ bamboo floors. The oak would keep true to the age of the house (1920’s bungalow), but the bamboo would definitely represent the modern aspect.   Unfortunately, it appears that much of the bamboo is being imported so Oak may be the way to go. Unless someone knows of some locally sourced bamboo.

2. Hot water heater – there’s a good chance the hot-water heater needs to be replaced. I’ve searched all over and can’t decide on what to do.  I had been leaning toward the Stiebel Eltron Tempra electric tankless, until i really understood the power requirements: 100-120amps for our needs. That’s over half the panel.  My other thought was the solar hot water system that the guys at 100khouse were looking to use.  However, the upfront cost was pretty steep and I don’t like the idea of possibly having to winterize the system; plus you’d need an auxiliary system.

I may end up w/ a gas tankless, though I’m not thrilled about a pilot light always being on. Or may see what it’d take to upgrade my panel to over 200. Anyhow, i’ve been doing tons of research to find the best fit for us and would be interested to know anyone’s experience w/ tankless.

3. Faucets – Wow, faucets are expensive. At least the ones we like are.  Why does modern design = expensive?  These decisions are mostly budgetary and only the dual flush toilets and low-flow spouts we’re requesting really have a green impact.  Suppose i could go as far as finding out where they’re shipped from, but faucets are pretty small.

Other decisions include:

Vanities – expensive and not sustainable. How to choose?

Exhaust fans in the bathroom – looking for efficient and budget. The best i’ve seen so far will actually turn on when it senses humidity. Good for the shower area, not so good for toilet area.
I’ll post some more pics soon. Since they shld be putting the roof on this monday.


Trip to Atlanta Yields some interesting conservation requirements March 12, 2008

Filed under: General Green 2.0 — budint @ 2:44 am
Tags: , ,

Went to Atlanta a week or two ago for leisure and noticed some interesting acts of conservation which made me think “why don’t we do this in St Louis?”  Of course Georgia’s in a drought and we’re not, but who knows, one day we could be.

Firstly, I went in at least a half dozen restrooms where I saw Falcon Water Free urinals.   These were in newer and older places, so thought that was interesting.  Supposedly they save 40,000 gallons of fresh water per year and that’s pretty sweet.

The next thing I noticed was the great deal of fountains or other non-essential aqua-displays which had been turned off.  This really gave me the sense of how serious their drought was.

Water turned off

Another interesting phenomena i noticed were the variations of hand-dryers; with the most interesting being the Xlerator hand dryer at Ikea.  This easily beat out the Mitsubishi model at another place.

And finally, there were some neatly designed sky-rises; which are actually popping up everywhere cause Atlanta doesn’t appear to have a good urban plan.  (E.g. Developers putting buildings wherever they please)  Here’s one in particular:

atl skyrise


Dilemma: Dog vs. Buckeye Tree January 2, 2008

Filed under: General Green 2.0,Landscaping,Live Green 2.0 — budint @ 4:59 pm
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As previously mentioned we got this new puppy, which will be a great addition to our house once it’s complete. One issue though is that our house has a buckeye tree behind it and Buckeyes are poisonous to dogs. Our initial reaction was that we needed to cut the tree down and plant a non-toxic replacement tree. Especially since our puppy seems to eat anything and everything.

However, after talking w/ my uncle and seeing how our vet downplayed the threat, we’ve decided to keep the tree. Especially since it’s such a beautiful tree. See pic below from wikipedia since ours doesn’t currently have leaves.


Guess our puppy will just have to learn to not eat everything. And I’ll probably have to rake up all of the fallen buckeyes in the fall.


The Energy Monitor Does not Lie January 1, 2008

Filed under: General Green 2.0,Live Green 2.0 — budint @ 7:35 pm
Tags: ,

My first week w/ the Kill a watt Energy monitor (which I got for Christmas) has been very educational.  Some appliances which I had assumed sucked more energy were actually pretty efficient.  Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:

1. My Dell laptop and external LCD monitor uses 58 watts per hour. (0-1 watt is used when the system is off)

2. Wife’s older Dell laptop uses 62 watts per hour. (0-1 watt is used when the system is off)

3. Our crappy 19″ TV uses 118 watts per hour. (2-3 watts when the TV is off).

3. Samsung DVD player uses 2-3 when off. (haven’t tested w/ it on yet).

4. Crappy Target 3-way lamp uses 60, 118 and 150 watts.

5. The worst offender so far has been the refrigerator which came w/ this loft.  This is not a surprise as I hear the thing running all of the time and landlords have no incentive to put a more expensive energy efficient appliance in these places.   I ran the monitor for 24hrs and the average came out to .75kwh which translates to 18kwh per day or 6,500kwh per year if this usage held true through the entire year.   This is 10 times more energy that say a new GE side by side frig which is Energy Star and rated at 611kwh per year.               And we don’t have the frig set at a very cold setting.

6. Black and Decker coffee maker when not brewing uses no energy.

7. My Motorola cellphone takes 5 watts per hour to charge and 1 watt once it’s charged.

So far there’s not much to be changed in our lifestyle w/ this new data. I’ll potentially look at the fridge and see if there’s a way to keep it from running so much and not turn the 3-way light all the way to the 3rd level, but that’s about it.