My Green City Life

Weather switch
September 27, 2007, 5:07 pm
Filed under: your outdoor space

My trip to Colorado afforded some breath taking views of a changing color palette, as Colorado moves from summer to fall. When I got back to Montreal, I found that the trees had started shedding their leaves in great numbers, although the weather was mild. I wore shorts and flipflops yesterday and almost felt a little hopeful that fall would hold off a bit longer. That hope would have been for naught: I saw my breath on the air today for this first time this season. It’s rainy and chilly, and it makes me want to knit and drink hot tea. Goodbye, summer. See ya ’round, next year!


Confession: oil binge
September 26, 2007, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This past weekend I went on vacation. It turns out that being away from home means that you make a much bigger footprint on the environment than usual! I left on Thursday, which was the day that Montreal celebrated World Car-free Day. A lot of major streets downtown were closed between (but unfortunately not including) rush hours. I did my part by getting on a polluting shuttle bus to the airport and then flying about 1600 miles. The next day I hopped in a car and drove 300 miles to a wedding. After the celebration, the whole trip had to by made in reverse. I estimate that the entire 5-day trip used up about 43 gallons of oil. Yikes! As someone who rarely uses a normal passenger car at all, those numbers hurt!

The flipside of all this is what those 43 gallons of oil allowed me to do. I got to visit some dear friends whom I hadn’t seen in over five years. That 300 mile drive took me through some absolutely gorgeous Colorado scenery that awed me at every turn. And as any good vacation should be, this one was refreshing and rejuvinating. (I’m thinking the mountain air and natural hot springs helped.) I’m certainly not proud of my oil binge, but I tried my best to use each drop wisely, and I think I did a good job. Especially if I wait another five years before I do it all over again!

September 17, 2007, 9:24 am
Filed under: your green lifestyle

I just found out that there is going to be a clothes swap here in the MTL this Wednesday. Exciting! For those who don’t know, a clothes swap is pretty self-explanatory: you bring clothes you don’t want anymore, you swap them for clothes someone else doesn’t want anymore. You get new clothes, and you get to get rid of your old clothes without them ending up in a landfill. Everybody wins! This particular swaparama costs $20 to get in ($5 if you have donated clothes to the swap), and all proceeds go to “an eco-friendly cause.” Not sure what that eco-friendly cause is, but I will have faith that it is a worthy cause. If you are in Montreal and want to participate in the swap, or if you just want to find out more about the event, you can read about it here. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go dig out some clothes to bring to the swap!

Electric Goal Met!
September 14, 2007, 9:15 am
Filed under: the green apartment

I just got the electric bill, and hooray! We did it! We averaged 85 kwH per month, which is 90% less than the average American uses per month. I think this is a pretty big jump considering that last time we got a bill (two months ago) we averaged 125 kwH per month. We didn’t even make terribly big changes either. We did things that I think anyone could do:

Switched ALL the lights from regular incandescents to compact fluroescents. This was expensive for sure. We did qualify for (will soon receive, hopefully) a rebate from Hydro Québec. I think this change made a big difference.

Unplugged appliances that don’t get regular use. This one is mostly aimed at devices that have a “wall wort” — that big power adapter thing attached to the plug. I’ve read that they continue to pull a bit of energy even when the device is not turned on. This one also applies to devices that are not really off when they are off; things that have clocks or lights that stay on as long as their plugged in. Our coffee maker is one of these.

Unplug everything at night. OK, so I don’t unplug the fridge when I go to bed. But I do unplug the TV and cable box as well as the cable modem and wireless router. I was already used to turning off my computer at night, but now it gets unplugged too.

Of course there are little things we already did that will help bring down your electric bill: turn off lights when you aren’t using them. Turn off the TV, radio, computer, etc when you leave the house. Don’t leave your cell phone recharger plugged in for longer than it takes to recharge the phone. There are more tips here.

Change The Margins
September 13, 2007, 9:30 am
Filed under: on the town, your green lifestyle

Doing my green blog rounds this morning, I came across a link (I can’t remember where I found it!) to Change The Margins, a site encouraging people to make the margins on their documents smaller to save paper. I have always been one to fiddle with the margins before printing from Microsoft Word and other similar programs. I also tend to shrink the text size and the leading (the space between the lines). Is it because I like saving paper and creating less waste? Probably. Is it because I want to save money by not having to buy as much paper? Probably that too. I also like to think it’s the graphic designer in me trying to keep the world a little less full of ugly Word docs. All three are good reasons to make the tiny change that over time and with enough people implementing the change can have a big effect.

Some highlights on the site: A study at Penn State shows that changing the default margin settings campus wide could save 72 acres of forest. Also, a petition to get Microsoft to change the default margins in Word. I’d say that’s worth the click.

Dark Village
September 12, 2007, 8:52 am
Filed under: your green lifestyle

Kyle from the Riot For Austerity sent a link to an article on the BBC site about a village in Taiwan that is on the verge of getting electricity for the first time. One of the most interesting parts of the article is that the elders in the village are all about getting electricity while the younger folks are not so keen on it; the former excited to be able to have refrigerators, dishwashers, and TVs, the latter worried that the strong sense of community and connectedness with nature will disappear.

It makes you think. If you’d never had electricity before, would you want it? I tend to think yes, of course I’d want it, but I’d use it sparsely and responsibly. But electrical gadgets are hard to say no to, and soon you are depending on devices you never knew you needed. The last time the electricity went out in my apartment, I was amazed at how much of my day was interrupted. So life without electricity as a choice… sounds really hard, but obviously some people do it and don’t want to change. Maybe I’ll test myself and have a day without electricity. Has anyone done this before? Any pieces of advice?

1.6 gallons, baby!
September 6, 2007, 6:56 pm
Filed under: in the bathroom

You may remember that our toilet broke. The pipe that connects the tank to the bowl rusted out, and since they don’t make toilets like that anymore, we had to get a whole new replacement toilet. A month and a half later, we FINALLY have the new toilet! I am stoked (or as stoked as you can be about a new toilet anyway) not just because I am relieved that the apartment complex people and the plumber finally got their acts together enough to actually install our new toilet. I am also stoked because this new toilet only uses 1.6 gallons per flush! Compared to the ancient beast of a toilet that we had up until today, this new guy is tiny! The old one must have used at least three gallons — probably more like five — per flush. Think of the water we won’t be wasting with each flush now! Whew, it feels good to be green in the city!