Archive for the Minimalism Category

EU No Longer Selling 100w Light Bulbs

Apparently today the EU is banning the production of 100w light bulbs.  While I rather like this idea, it has been met with much opposition for various reasons.  However, there was quote by EU commission which was rather startling about how effective this change will be.    lightbulb-idea

The EU Commission projects the ban on the energy-inefficient bulbs will save about 40 terawatt hours of energy in the EU per year — enough to meet the energy demands of a small country.

Ya folks that is Terawatts.  Just to kind of wrap your head around that, the typical home today uses about 26 kilowatts a day.  There are a thousand watts in a kilowatt, a thousand kilowatts in a megawatt, and a thousand megawatts in a gigawatt and a 1000 gigawatts in a terawatt, in the end a terawatt is 1,000,000,000,000 watts!  (thanks for the correction Grant 🙂  ) Times that by forty and it is seriously astounding!  Treehugger wrote this article about how people are hoarding these bulbs and its their point counter point against these bulbs.

Reprinted: Treehugger Loyd Alter 9/09

1) Compact Fluorescents have Mercury in them, and that’s bad for the environment

Mercury is bad stuff when it gets into the environment, but the main source of environmental mercury is from coal burning power plants. As Pablo showed in Should I Worry About Deadly Mercury In My CFLs?,

Over 5 years (the life of a CFL) it may be responsible for 2.4mg of smokestack mercury emissions, so a total of 6.4mg of mercury over the life of the bulb. By comparison the incandescent bulb is responsible for almost 10mg of mercury emissions over 5 years. But CFLs can be recycled to recapture the mercury. Smokestack emissions can not be recaptured after they enter the atmosphere.

2) If you break a bulb you will need to call a Hazmat Team to clean it up.

The two to five milligrams of mercury (smaller than the nib on a ballpoint pen) will evaporate quickly; open the windows and ventilate the room. See Ask TreeHugger: Is Mercury from a Broken CFL Dangerous?

3) Incandescents put out useful heat in some parts of the country.

Electricity is a very expensive way to heat, and the bulbs are not putting out the heat where you need it. Even if this were not the case, it is only true for half the year. More: Study Shows Incandescent Bulbs Are Warm and Toasty

4) I don’t like the quality of the light.

The Energy Saving Trust in the UK set up a sort of Pepsi challenge to see if people really could tell them apart. Smart Planet reports “Although 70 per cent of the 761 shoppers that were asked to step inside the booths thought they could spot the difference, 53 per cent got it wrong or admitted they couldn’t see any difference. A whopping 64 per cent of the guinea pigs said they preferred the light in booth A, which was in fact the energy-saving lightbulb.Last Post Ever on Compact Fluorescents, It’s Settled

5) I am waiting for LEDs.

So am I. But right now most have lousy colour balance, are not bright enough and are still very expensive. They have a long way to go before they will be competitive. Meanwhile, if you wait five years for them, you will have paid a lot for electricity, contributed a lot of CO2 and added 3.6 milligrams of mercury to the environment.

6. They give me headaches.

Um, join the line and stock up on incandescents, and hope that LEDs are available before you run out. Or, try different brands; some people react differently to different types.

Rethinking Big Box

Big Box Stores are often given a bad wrap, though they seem to firmly fill a need in our lives.  This bad wrap is often justified for many good reasons.  But what if we were to rethink about their function, their form, their purpose, their method?  The Reburbia contest got me thinking about this interesting spin on Big Box stores.

Take for example Ikea.  If you have ever been in one of these they are huge!  I’m not talking about Sam’s club huge or Costco huge, no no, Ikea makes these stores look like mini-me.  The average Sam’s or Costco 190,000 square feet, Ikea 300,000 and up!bb1

That is allot of space, what if we could repurpose that space or repurpose the space of an empty warehouse, closed walmart etcetera to become a giant living grocery store.  When I say living grocery store, this is what I mean.

The interior of the structure will be converted to a giant greenhouse, where the aisles of shelves are now long raised bed rows of plants that the customers walk down and pick their food.  The guy that used to stock the shelves of produce section will now show you how to harvest it all, offer up recipes and dietary advice.  All the vegetables and fruit will be grown on site.  Chicken and beef will also be done free range in the area surrounding the store and some of the massive parking lot will be converted back to green space.  The store’s power could even come from wind mills on the property.  Imagine how much better your buying experience would be when its filled with shades of greens instead of harsh lights, neutral color tiles and obnoxious advertisements.

If you have ever been to an EarthFare grocery store, you could have a similar dining area, with daily selections of hot food (they make them daily, all organic and from scratch). Where I used to live, Asheville, NC, the grocery store also had a community center that anyone could rent and yoga, meditation, art classes were held.  This store could have something similar teaching classes on gardening, farming, and sustainability etcetera.bb3

Many of us know about the Urban Homestead, path to freedom.  They grow 10,000 pounds of produce on a 1/10 of an acre 20 minutes from downtown LA with only four people.  If you scale that to the size of Ikea, you are looking at 650,000 pounds of produce! Ikea’s are often built on 40 acre lots, so figure 15 for the building and parking.  I have read you can raise chickens under free range conditions at 400 an acre.  If you were to bring in feed, you could support a decent number of cows per acre.

Imagine how your relationship with food would change?  You would be forced to by local, to by seasonal, to know exactly what went into your food.  How would this impact the cost when you eliminate transportation, gasoline, repackaging, and merchandising.  Would this work, what are your thoughts on this?

Boston To Launch Largest Bike Share Program

Boston just announced that they are going to be launching 290 stations around the city. bike1 If  you haven’t seen these before they are basically fancy bike stands that lock bikes until a member or paying customer swipes their card to get the bike.  After you are done using it, you drop it off at any station and you are good to go.  The nice part about this is that you don’t have to store a bike, which in cities space is at a premium and bikes are rather awkward things to keep inside.  In addition to not having to store it, you don’t have to maintain it, fix it;  You can use it when you need it, where you need it.

I have seen these around in my travels and for living in a city it’s a great option.  They will run $78 for the year or $5 a day.


More here

Reusable Shopping Bag Pools

I have been using reusable shopping bags for a while now, once every few months I forget to bring them, which is okay unless I am doing a big shopping trip.  I still use plastic bags for various needs that cloth can’t really substitute (think dripping package of raw chicken).    It really sucks when you do forget though, because you feel so guilty, you don’t want to buy any more because you have a ton of them, its just consuming more and its senseless to drive home.  I ran into this idea over at treehugger.


Reprinted: Trehugger Sammy Grover 8/2009

I went to the co-op the other day, and once again forgot my reusable bags. It’s one of my bad eco-habits – along with dragging my feet over putting up a clothes line. But as I filled my plastic bag in shame (I REALLY don’t need any more reusable bags at home!), I was reminded of a comment on a previous post, where someone (whose comment I can no longer find) informed us that their grocery store has a “bag pool” – where you can bring in your old bags, and exchange them for new ones – free of charge. If you have too many, you simply leave excess for those who forget. Given the resources that go into growing cotton, recycling plastics, or even manufacturing and transporting a bag – it makes total sense to use it to the maximum, rather than each of us having 15 that sit in our closets.

I believe the scheme in question is BagShare in Western Massachusetts – and in addition to reusing existing bags, BagShare volunteers get together to sew new bags from old t-shirts and other preloved items. The project claims that over 10,000 bags have been sewn or donated – and some participating stores now only offer BagShare bags and/or cardboard boxes if you forget your own bags.

It’s the perfect example of a product service system – and we like those! George Monbiot would no doubt still argue that plastic bags are a distraction, and volunteer hours might be better spent elsewhere – but to my mind, if you can build community through the reuse of valuable resources, then you are undoubtedly on to something.

Clorox GreenWorks Really Green?


I have seen these products all around now, which made me wonder if these products where truly green or just green washed (faking or just going with the fad)  Inhabitat put this to rest today

Reprinted: Inhabitat Evelyn Lee 8/2009

Launched in January of 2008, Clorox’s line of natural cleaning products, Green Works, currently holds more than a 40% share of the natural home cleaning market. The first year success of their product single-handedly grew the natural cleaning product market by more than 80% in one year by selling Green Works through their current distribution chain in more than 24,000 stores alongside their regular household cleaning products. However the question remains, is Green Works truly green? Critics argue that since no industry standard definitions currently exist for natural cleaners, Green Works is simply deeming itself green against its own standards – a dangerous trend to set. Read on to find out more.greenworks3

According to their website, Green Works sets their own very stringent standards to ensure that their cleaners are at least 99% natural – a.k.a. coming from renewable resources, being biodegradable and free of petrochemicals. They attribute the 1% to synthetic ingredients including a preservative and green coloring but are working to find alternatives to be able to claim that the line is 100% natural. On the other hand, because no standard exists, those who are on the lookout for product authenticity question the use of corn-based ethanol which has a larger greenhouse gas footprint than petrochemicals, as well as the use of coconut oil, which contributes to rainforest habitat destruction. Clorox has done their best to remain openly transparent about the ingredients in their Green Works line by publishing their ingredients on the product and responding to such questions online at their blog and through their Shades of Green Journal.

So where’s the rub, you ask? As stated on their Shades of Green blog, “The Green Works brand stands for powerful cleaning done naturally and we have stayed true to that promise. Our proposition is aimed at the mainstream consumer who is interested in natural products that clean, are affordable and easily accessible. We are achieving our goal to mainstream natural cleaning.” The company has delivered on their promise to bring natural cleaners into the forefront at a 15-20% premium over their natural competitors that are often carried at a 50-100% premium. On the other hand, if it weren’t for the success of their product, it’s questionable whether or not Clorox would continue to carry their natural line unless it continued to drive their bottom line – which doesn’t tend to sit well with those who are constantly on the lookout for a more sustainable product. Despite their commitment to their natural product line, Green Works, Clorox has done little as a company to internalize their sustainable chatter into their overall operations and product manufacturing.


The simple answer is yes. Green Works is a product that can, for the most part, claim truthfully that their product is 99% natural. On the other hand, those looking for cradle to cradle operations and a company whose foresight is focused on a more sustainable future may want to look elsewhere. After all, in the end Clorox will always be a bleach company that is driven by the success of their products and the bottom line.