Posts Tagged ‘world changing wednesdays’

World Changing Wednesdays for Earth Month

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

April is Earth Month. I felt like a great thing to do to celebrate was to try to reduce my consumption of energy, thereby reducing my CO2 output.
April 1 we started a new tour. Driving a bunch of miles does not help to reduce my emissions (although its a low emission car). Still, I’m going to do what I can this month. And you can play along. It will be fun.
So here’s some numbers that have been sorely lacking from my recent posts. The US accounts for 1/5 of the worlds CO2. That’s bunch. The average family of two is responsible for 42,000 lbs of the stuff annually. I figure if we (that’s me and Aidan) could use 10% less that would be a big reduction. If WE (that’s me, and all the yous out there) could reduce our output by 10% that would be amazing.
So I’m in the car most of the week, and using a gallon of gas results in 19.6 lbs of CO2 according to the EPA. The only thing I can do about that is drive at a more reasonable speed. that means getting more organized, and leaving a little earlier. No real sacrifices there.
Once home, there’s a lot that can be done very easily to consume less energy and output less carbon.
More numbers: using a kilowatt of electricity is equivalent to 1.5 lbs of CO2 and 100 cuft of natural gas is equivalent to 12 lbs of CO2. If you know how much electricity and natural gas you use, that’s big start in reducing your emissions. You can calculate your total household utility energy use, figure that in terms of emissions, determine how to cut 10%.
In simpler terms, lets find ways to cut back easily. Typically, a water heater accounts for as much as 12% of household energy. Making sure it’s thermostat is properly set at the recommended 120F is a good start. 80% of the energy used in washing clothes goes towards heating the water. Do more wash in cold water. Unless your clothes are really dirty, they should be fine in cold water. And while we are on my favorite topic… use less laundry detergent. You don’t need so much, really.
Using the electric dry setting on the dishwasher is an energy hog. Let them air dry, emit gobs less carbon.
Lawn gear is ridiculously inefficient. Mowers, trimmers, edgers… all use inefficient motors which spew a lot of carbon emissions. Not saying your lawn need to look untrimmed, just do a little less. Tell your neighbors I said so. Take out a little grass and let something native spread.
All of these things are free. I picked free stuff, and easy stuff because they are things we can all do and are more likely to continue to do. In 2007 the American council for an Energy Efficient Economy did a survey of home buyers about energy efficiency. Over 60% said they did not have enough money for energy renovations or were unable to pay extra for energy efficiency. Later in the same survey, when asked what they would do with an extra 10K, only 24% they would invest in energy efficiency. Most picked granite countertops. Its a choice folks. Lets make a good one.
This is just the short list. There’s a lot we can do around the house to reduce our energy consumption and our carbon emissions. I’ll keep sharing ideas all month. How about you? Got an idea to share?

Groundhog World Changing Wednesday

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

If its Wednesday, we must be changing the world. 

First a disclaimer, there is nothing in this post about groundhogs or ground hog day.  I was reminded that it was groundhog day by a cute picture on the search engine Bing.  That made me realize it was Wednesday, and we needed to fix the planet again.  You probably thought that while we were on tour, I would forgo my Wednesday mission.  I thought so too.  Doesn’t take much for me to ditch my responsibilities, but even with a legitimate excuse I continue.

Why?  Two things.  First I saw the sun rise over the Atlantic, set in the gulf, and in between saw alligators, anhingas, cormorants, and bunnies!  That is some pretty amazing stuff and we need to preserve and protect that.  Second, I met and reconnected with some amazing people.  This small music community is smart and energetic, they know how to get things done, they’re enthusiasm is contagious.  So I became even more convinced that this group of folks – which includes you – can make small changes , influence others to do the same, and really change the world for the better.

In case you are just tuning in, we’re tackling big stuff here; environmental protection and conservation, healthcare, education, socio-economic disparity and the economy in general.  And we’re tackling it in small way but still making a big difference.

These past few weeks in Florida I have seen folks at highway off-ramps with signs that read “homeless, hungry”.  They are a lot easier to ignore while encapsulated in the car than they were in the subways of NYC.  Still I know there are homeless, hungry folks out there and I do want to help.  Contributing to a local food bank is a great way to contribute.   We do this, and I encourage you to do the same if you can.  Often there is a box right in your grocery store.  But that doesn’t address the face-to-face encounter on the street, at the off-ramp, in the subway.  I am never convinced that if I give some one a dollar it will actually help them.  So I have taken to picking up a box of granola bars when they are on sale.  I carry a couple in my pocket (just in case of a personal emergency, but that’s another story and another unrealistic fear).  If you offer a granola bar, the hungry folks will take it.  You will meet some who refuse, and some who are indignant about the offer.  Okay, you tried.  For those who accept the food, you know exactly what you are giving them and you probably spent less than a dollar.  I also believe the interaction, the kindness and civility is a good thing to put out into the world.

I bet you have a better idea than this one.  Please share it with us.

Completely unrealted to this topic, we did a show with Bill and Kate Isles on Sunday.  They are terrific, great song writers and performers.  If you are not familiar with them, find them on the web and have a listen.  It will make you happy, and that makes the world a better place.

until next week….

Another Wednesday, another world to conquer.

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

We’re taking on health-care.  Don’t panic, there is no political content this time, no nationwide consensus to be reached. No equations, complicated formulae.  

Forty-one economists, includind a few nobel laureates, filed an amicus brief in Florida arguing that the health-care bill is not unconstitutional.  They argue the unique characteristics justify the congressional mandate.  I am quite sure there is nothing I can do to influence a federal judge.  However, I am also quite sure it is not unconstitutional for me to tell you that if we all try to be a little healthier and help others to be healthier we can go a long way in solving the health care crisis.  And, I don’t think it is an over-reaching, over-confident assumption.

Again, don’t panic.  I am in no position to talk about your eating habits when I share a pie a week. I am not a fitness fanatic or in any way medically schooled.  Nope.  What I am is happy… and healthy.  I’ve always thought those two things were related and now I have found some support in science.

An Australian study of 9981 people found that folks who described themselves as happy and satisfied with life reported good health for the following three years and a much higher rate than folks who said they were not happy.  A Columbia University Medical Center study of 1700 people found that people who called themselves happy were 22% less likely to have heart disease.  (The study was on Canadians, but I think its still valid !)  So, if we are happier we will require less medical care, and put less strain on the health care system.  Simple.

So how do you get happy?  Less sciency studies seem to indicate that happiness is mostly a choice.  For me its always been my default state so I wasn’t sure I was qualified to tell you how to be happy.  So I hit the street.  I smiled and said hello to everyone I could.  Some people ignored me. Some nodded.  Some looked puzzled.  And some smiled and said hello. I asked that later group if they described themselves as happy and they all agreed that they were, to some extent, happy people. I followed up by asking if they ever did things to help themselves be happy.  Surprisingly, the folks that were the most sure about their happiness did modify their behavior to amplify their happy state. So from that pool of experts:  “when I am having a difficult day at work, I look at a picture of my kids”  “if I am feeling down I call a friend who tends to be upbeat”  “I take a few deep breaths when I first start to feel stressed.”

I engaged a few people in deeper conversations and found a few surprising similarities.  They had a good understanding of what mattered to them as individuals… and what didn’t.  They were focused on others, giving and sharing of themselves in service to others.  And finally they had hobbies and interests.

No one said music.  What?!? Music makes me happy.  Especially live music. When I hear other people play and sing, share that experience with a group, I feel energized, transformed and happy.  And that makes me healthy – I have the science to prove it.

Do you have ideas on promoting happiness?  Share them.  And smile, you’re fixing the health-care crisis.