Our Net-Zero Home in Long Beach, California

Living the Change We Want to See in the World

  • 22 Years of Stuff

    As we prepare to move into our smaller green, dream home, we need to divest ourselves of 22 years of stuff that we accumulated as a family of four. Craigslist has been a great resource for getting things that we no longer need into the hands of those who can use them. We have been surprised how quickly people responded to our ads.

    There are definitely some emotions -- happy and sad -- sorting through items. We also reflect on why we needed so many things for us and our children. At the time, everything seemed like a good idea. In retrospect, some items seem overly frivolous. Our goal for the rest of our lives is to be more conscientious about things we acquire.

    We still have a plenty of things to sell or give away but we made a solid start and reuse is a good thing.

  • It is Easy Being Green

    [The original version of this blog post appeared in Cleave's Blant in 2009. I updated it for today's environment.]

    My wife and I are fans of the television show, Living with Ed. Ed Begley, Jr. is kind of a nut on the show, but if you think about all of the things that he does to minimize his family's impact on the environment, you'll find that you can do many of them with relative ease. Some are easy, and inexpensive. Others require an investment which often have a relatively quick payback. Most of all, these are just the right things to do and we do all of them.

    Here is a list of things that my wife and I do to try to be better citizens on this little blue ball:

    • Solar panels for generating electricity: During the day we make electricity for the neighborhood using the sun and we save a lot of money on our electric bill. There are a lot of cash rebates and tax credits associated with the purchase and installation of photo-voltaic solar panels.
    • Computers and computer accessories plugged into electrical surge suppressors with on/off switches: A lot of your computer peripherals with AC adapters and computer monitors, continue to draw power even when they are "off." Flip the switch on the surge suppressor to off after you've turned off your computer. Sure your ink jet printers and internet connection are on a separate electrical surge supressor that is always turned on.
    • AC power adapters for cell phones, hand-held games, MP3 players, etc plugged into a simple power strip: Similar to the computer, power adapters for these devices draw power even when they aren't connected to anything. Turn them off completely by switching off the power strip. Remember, if you see a glowing LED, the adapter is drawing power.
    • Recycle everything that your city will take or that you can bring to your local recycling center: Don't throw anything into the trash that you can recycle. Our goal is to always have at least twice as much recycling (by weight) as we do trash each week. Just be careful not to put non-recyclables in with the recyclables. Certain items can ruin a batch of recycling if they get into the recycling mix.
    • Use LED bulbs instead of incandescent or flourescent bulbs: When your standard light bulb burns out replace it with a LED bulb. You can buy LED bulb that replicate the color temperature of incandescent bulbs if that's important to you.
    • Don't buy or use bottled water: I don't know how many studies we have to conduct to see that our municipal water supplies provide water that is of similar or better quality than bottled water -- unless you happen to live in Flint, MI. Purchase a reusable water bottle (and clean it regularly) so that you can bring water with you when you need it.
    • Use recycled paper in your computer printer: For almost all uses these days (business or personal) recycled paper works just fine.
    • Better yet, don't print: There are already too many jokes about people who print their emails -- just don't do it.
    • Turn off lights: Your parents were right -- sort of -- it's a good idea for saving money, but it's also a good idea that reduces our need to produce electricity from coal-burning electric plants.
    • Water your lawn less: Lawns are some of the biggest uses of water for most homeowners. You can actually get away with less watering and still have a green lawn.
    • Better yet, remove your lawn: If you live in California, many municpal water districts have rebates for removing your lawn and installing drought tolerant landscaping.
    • Reuse plastic sandwich and freezer bags: We try to use as few plastic bags as possible, but when we use them, we try to reuse them as much as possible.
    • Neither paper or plastic: Bring a cloth bag or a bag made from recycled materials with you when you go shopping. Or you can be like Ed and just carry your purchases out of the store in your hands.
    • Drive a hybrid or electric car: If you need a new car and can afford a hybrid, then buy one. I predict that all cars will eventually be hybrid or all electric within 20 years. It's not just about saving gas. Think about all of the tailpipe emissions when you're sitting stuck in traffic. A gas-electric hybrid turns of the gas engine when the car is stopped. When the engine isn't running there are no hydrocarbons coming out of the exhaust pipe.
    • Walk or ride a bike for trips less than one mile: Especially where we live in Southern California, mass transit is not always convenient. However, you'd be surprised how often you drive less than a mile. Walking distances less than a mile doesn't take a lot of extra time and it's good for you.

    I'll be adding to this list over time as there are a lot more simple things each of us can do to make the planet last a little longer for the generations after us.

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