Archive for November 2010

Our Trees Are Here! Our Trees Are Here!   Leave a comment

Last week we got our free shade trees from our utility company. I was planning to plant them this weekend, but I forgot to call Underground Service Alert (811 Call Before You Dig) on Wednesday so I have to wait until the end of Monday to plant. I am pretty sure that there is a water line and cable beneath our lawn, but since I don’t know exactly where I want the utility to mark the lines. Utility marking is something that I have to do all the time for work, but requesting a dig ticket outside of work is a new experience.

I’m pretty excited about the shade trees. Well, I’m ecstatic about one of them and hopeful about the other. Our local utility company (SMUD) has a program giving free shade trees to customers that request them. It’s a limited list of shade trees (no fruit trees or evergreens, and they have selected a number of species as particularly appropriate for the area), but I really don’t understand why more people don’t participate. I mean, it’s FREE. All you have to do is meet with an urban forester to select the tree(s) and the location, and then dig the hole and care for the tree. In a few years you get shade! We might not see much return on “investment” since the trees might not yet be fully grown before we move again, but since the “investment” was zero I can live with that. We’ll get some shade, and hopefully better resale value.

The tree that I am excited about is a native Valley Oak. It’s a large tree that will be planted out near the street. I am very passionate about native plants, and of all the trees native to the Sacramento area, the oaks are my favorites. I’ve been nervously mapping the location, though, because the location of this tree will be a huge factor in figuring out what area of the new lawn gets removed for xeriscape. Since a valley oak is a low water use tree, I’d like low water use landscaping around it. We’re going for improving resale value, though, and I don’t want to do anything that might have the opposite effect. Sacramento is a seriously water-guzzling town, and I’m afraid that removing all of the lawn will have a negative effect. Plus, I need to leave enough lawn accessible to the driveway for me to drive my car onto the lawn so that I can wash it by hand.

The tree that I am not so excited about is the eastern redbud. We had been planning to get just one tree, but the urban forester took one look at our front yard and said we could easily fit two trees, a large and a small tree. They don’t have the western redbud on the list because for some reason it wasn’t deemed appropriate (size? color? root structure? branching? apparently they look at a number of variables). So she suggested the eastern redbud instead. To be completely honest, I’m kind of regretting that decision. Maybe we should have just gotten one tree and gone looking for a small native tree on our own. Honestly, though, I hope it’ll work because the small tree is the most important one for shading the front window. And I know full well that if we had gone the route of finding (and buying) a different small tree near the house, it wouldn’t have happened this fall.


Posted November 15, 2010 by mayakey in energy use, gardening, home

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A Smile Is Contagious   Leave a comment

When I was in college I used to play a game as I walked around campus. I would smile. I smiled and looked people in the eye, and I counted the number of people who would look me in the eye and smile right back. It felt good to smile. It felt even better to have a complete stranger smile back at me. It’s an experience beyond words. And there was an extra thrill when someone smiled back at me who had not previously been smiling, because I knew that I had brightened their day even if just for a second. Yes, there were many more people whose eyes were trained on the ground, or studiously avoiding looking at anyone else, and whose faces were intently serious; but it’s about quality, not quantity.

Smiling feels good. A smile is friendly, encouraging, loving, kind, peaceful, and relaxing. Even when the day isn’t exactly smile-icious, putting on a genuine smile can make everything brighter (probably because in order to make it genuine, you have to be conscious of the good things all around you).

Admittedly I don’t play the game as often now. It’s entirely different in an office of people I know and who know me, and it seems I’m always concentrating on something else when I’m in a public place. But every once in a while it is good to have a reminder that smiling feels good, and that it is contagious. When someone smiles at you, even if you don’t know them, smile back. You’ll make yourself happier and improve someone else’s day as well.

Posted November 12, 2010 by mayakey in musings, psychology

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The Carpet Is Finally Gone!   1 comment

The old carpet that we removed first thing upon getting our house back in July is finally gone! The whole process of recycling the carpet and padding could have certainly gone better, but it was also not as bad as I had thought it could be.

The first issue was schedule. In the first week of July when I was ripping out the carpet, I just wanted it out of the house. I was focusing on getting the house clean and ready for move-in and just didn’t have time to take care of carpet recycling research. So we rolled up the carpet and padding and stacked them on the concrete in the backyard. The plan was to recycle them before the rains came. In early July, October looks far away. Obviously that plan failed. We ended up with a pile of slightly wet carpet. All of last week our cars were in the driveway and the garage was dedicated for rolling out the carpet to dry since the recycler specified that the carpet be dry.

The second issue was the lack of recyclers. With no carpet recyclers in the Sacramento area, a trip to the Bay Area had to be scheduled. I have used up all my time off at work and the recycler is not open on weekends. Luckily my husband had taken a half day off and was willing to spend it driving to Oakland to deliver the carpet. I have an awesome husband. The carpet pad recycler is also not open weekends, but at least they were local, so I just took a long lunch to haul that load.

The third issue was meeting the requirement of the carpet recycler. It was related to the wet carpet in that we had to take the time to re-roll all of the carpet (even the dry rolls) because the carpet recycler specified that the carpet needed to be rolled yarn side out and tied off with a strip of carpet, not string or tape. That was REALLY annoying! I do not understand that requirement.

The cost ended up working out ok for the recycling, but steep overall. There was no fee for the load of carpet padding, and the fee for the carpet was $10. Considering that the disposal fee at the landfill would have been either $40 or $45 (depending on whether truck bed and cab filled with carpet rolls would have been considered a load or an overload) for the two loads, that’s not bad at all. The problem was that since we had to do both loads on weekday mornings (before 3 pm), we had to rent a truck. And since we weren’t able to get both loads in one day due to the early closing times, we spent $225 on pickup truck rentals (plus gas and bridge toll).

Posted November 9, 2010 by mayakey in home

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Another Successful Green Festival Trip   1 comment

This weekend is(was) the 9th Annual Green Festival in San Francisco. I’ve been going since the first one in the fall of 2002, when I was in grad school. At the time, my long distance phone company was CREDO (then Working Assets), and I got a mailing from them saying that all Working Assets customers got free admission to this event in San Francisco. So I went. And I got hooked. At first I had no interest at all in the speakers, and I just went for the hundreds of vendors. It was the only place all year where I could physically shop (as opposed to shopping online) for fair trade goods, organic goods, recycled goods, etc. And it was a great way to expand my list of online vendors as well. But after maybe four years of that I had acquired a huge bookmark list of online vendors, and I was no longer enticed by the idea of driving two hours each way and wandering the aisles of the festival by myself just so that I could actually try clothes on before buying and get a jump start on my xmas shopping. So I skipped a year. The following year I looked at the speaker list and realized that I had been missing out! So now I have been going with my sister-in-law and concentrating on seeing interesting presentations punctuated by vendor browsing.

This time I listened to presentations on simple living, the fair trade apparel business, vermiculture, the intersection of religion and the “green” movement, a case study for healing an auto-immune disorder through food and environmental modification, and the need for optimism to fuel the “green” movement. The speakers were all very good. Of course I got more out of some of the presentations than others. I didn’t walk away with as long of a list of potential blog topics as I did at the spring Green Festival this past April; but considering that I haven’t made a dent in that list I think that is okay. I had an additional strategy this time of perusing the vendor list in advance and noting the locations of a handful of known vendors that I knew I wanted to visit. That way I wouldn’t miss out on anything that I already like, and therefore didn’t need to rush through the rest of the ~500 vendors to make sure I wasn’t missing something. I did find some great surprises like a new vendor that makes recycled binders and pencils that look really beautiful, another vendor that was selling a perfect lunch bag (I’ve been looking for years now, so actually finding one that I think I would like is a surprise), and a couple seed-saver organizations that had seed packets for sale (I just got lettuce since the future garden is still concrete). And of course I splurged on a new shirt at one of my favorite fair trade clothing companies.

Posted November 7, 2010 by mayakey in conscious living, fair trade, shopping

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Green America Airline Recycling Survey   Leave a comment

In early 2010, Green America’s Responsible Shopper published a report about recycling in the airline industry. The results were pretty sad. In general the airlines aren’t consistent or comprehensive with their recycling efforts. I can’t say that I am really very surprised. I remember many years ago there was a short period of time during which flight attendants would carry two bags when they collected trash, one for trash, and one for cans/bottles/papers. Then that stopped happening. After that I started keeping any recyclable trash and carrying it into the airport myself to recycle when I got off of the plane since I wasn’t comfortable assuming that the trash was being sorted behind the scenes. Most airports are pretty good about having recycling receptacles in the terminal for passengers, at least. Eventually, I got my steel water bottle and now I bring that (empty) to the airport, fill it from a water fountain after security, and drink from that on the plane. On short trips I decline a drink onboard to reduce the waste of the cup and napkin. For long trips, though, my water bottle is not enough and it is nice to get some ice.

The report is an interesting read, and helped put some context on a few things. I had noticed that on Southwest flights when you ask for water they don’t give you a small bottle, but give you a cup instead. Apparently Southwest switched to canned water because the cans are easiest to recycle. It’s true, from a container material perspective aluminum is at the top of the pile. Aluminum is lightweight, easy to recycle (just melt and go), and can be recycled into another can. Glass next because it is also easy to recycle (grind, melt and go), and can be recycled into another bottle. Glass is heavy, though. Plastic is at the bottom because it is hard to recycle (can’t just melt and go), and can only downcycle. You cannot make another bottle out of the plastic.

Back to Green America’s report. Since they put out the report, they have been doing a survey of the experiences of airline passengers. So last weekend on my flights (well, two of the four) to and from Boston, I asked the flight attendants about whether they would be recycling stuff. When I got home I filled out the web form to submit the answers I got. At the end of the year Green America is going to put out an updated report with the results of the survey.

On my flights the flight attendants said that they do recycle cans, bottles, and paper. Everything except papers went into the plastic trash bags, but since they didn’t serve any bottles or cans (just cups) I guess it was all “trash”. I did notice that they would tuck a newspaper under an arm instead of putting it in the trash bag, so I guess that is evidence that the paper really is recycled. On one of the flights the flight attendant was separating out the cups and stacking them in her hand. I asked if they recycle the cups and she said that they don’t, but she stacks them separately so that they take up less room. That way the flight trash fits into a couple fewer bags, thus reducing the number of bags they go through. I could only wish all flight attendants followed that logic!

Posted November 4, 2010 by mayakey in advocacy, environment, travel

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Voting is Just Step One   1 comment

I hope everyone voted today (or by today). One of the things that I think is absolutely crucial for conscious living is being responsible. That includes personal, employment, and societal responsibilities; where the pertinant responsibility today is our civic responsiblity to vote. Democracy doesn’t work without active participants. And to be an active citizen, casting an educated vote is only the first step.

The next step is to speak up the other 364 days of the year. When there is an issue that matters to you, send a message to your representatives (email is best and super easy). They aren’t mass mind readers, so you have to speak up. Some organizations draft messages on major issues that you can sign and email (personally, I prefer to tweak the text before I put my name to it). Sign up for the newsletter so that you know what your legislators are up to and when they’ll be holding meetings in your area. At my old address I was signed up for newsletters from the state and federal legislators for my district. I haven’t yet signed up for newsletters in my new district, but now that I’ve reminded myself here I will be doing so.

Posted November 2, 2010 by mayakey in advocacy, conscious living

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