The Greenists are on vacation. Please enjoy this recycled post.
On Monday I became a bike commuter for the very first time, and I can’t say that I was perfectly prepared for it. First, I don’t have anything resembling a roadside repair kit to fix problems with tires or chains on my 10-mile trip to work. I also had never ridden the route I took to work Monday before actually taking it to work. Sue me. I discovered a far superior route option the day before my maiden bike commute and I had to take it. The photo at the top of this post was my original route. It’s also not a very bike-friendly road. Four lanes of traffic, about half of which is log trucks or other tractor-trailers.
I did at least talk to an expert before my maiden bike commute. Jack Sweeney is one of the three guys behind BikeCommuters.com. It’s a site devoted to spreading the word of… Well, if you need me to explain that one to you, maybe you shouldn’t ride your bike to work. You also definitely shouldn’t be driving a car anywhere. It should be obvious. What may not be so obvious is one of the biggest pieces of advice that Sweeney gave me. You don’t have to get fancy to be a bike commuter.
“One of the common misconceptions of bike commuting is that all sorts of special equipment is needed — that’s a fallacy. While many long-distance commuters will be more comfortable in cycling-specific clothing, the vast majority of potential commuters live within 5 or 6 miles of their workplaces. Because of that, nothing special is required — simply get on your bike and ride!”
If you choose specialized bike clothing for longer rides (in addition to their other benefits, bike shorts are heavily padded in the important areas), you can always take your work clothes with you in a bag. While I’ve just biked in a quick-drying athletic shirt and gym shorts instead of special cycling gear, I’ve packed the day’s clothes away in my backpack.
The bikes themselves don’t even have to be special in any way despite being reliable and well-maintained. If you live in a hilly area you probably want something with gears unless you enjoy suffering, but honestly, my mom’s beach cruiser is probably even better suited to commuting than my road bike. Hers has fenders to keep the mud and grime from getting kicked onto her clothes and a rack over the back tire to help haul her stuff around. I’m just not enough of a man to ride to work on a floral-themed bicycle.
And don’t let being a little out of shape be an excuse not to try this. I’m easily 15 pounds overweight and I have the upper body of a professional cyclist without the giant quads. I have been riding a lot this spring, but my first ride was in no way difficult. It was just slower. True, after my first 10 miles on the bike back in March, my butt was sore for three days, but my body has grown so accustomed to the saddle now that a 20-mile ride leaves my posterior no more uncomfortable than it would have been had I stayed home. Besides, if you’re out of shape now, imagine what getting several miles on the bike a day just as part of your commute will do for you. Read this post from one guy who used the bike to change his health if you need a more concrete example of what I mean.
Sweeney gave me tons more tips (some that I couldn’t or didn’t have time to take advantage of before my first ride) and I’ve collected those below in list form if you decide to try this for yourself. Read more…
The Greenists are on vacation. Please enjoy this recycled post.
While walking through our apartment complex this morning coming back from a meeting, I made a point of counting all the open windows I saw. It was easy: zero. And no, I wasn’t casing the joint, making notes about which units contained flat-screen TVs and would be easiest to break into (for which reason I’ll exclude all the bottom-floor dwellers from the following discussion.) My interest instead was a result of the perfect open-window weather, 70 and sunny. This is the time of year in this part of the country to air things out, after the pollen has fallen and before the melting heat of summer sets in. Nighttime temperatures have been in the 60s, with daytime highs in the low 80s, and there’s no better time to save some money on your utility bill, which is why it irks me a bit to hear the air conditioners rattling away as I type this.
It may be true that a programmable thermostat is a great way to save energy, but we shouldn’t forsake logic for the “set it and forget it” mentality (apologies to Ronco.) If you can get your pleasantly cool air straight from the atmosphere around you rather than forcing it through the energy-hogging middleman of the AC, then you should. Open a window and put up a fan. Better still, open windows on two or more sides and let a breeze blow through. I realize that most people are not going to sweat it out like me just to prove a point (especially here in Hotlanta) but surely we can all try and tough it out with no AC in the benign month of May.
Which brings me to another point: Why, in Atlanta, Georgia of all places, do we build dwellings with windows only on one side that open only from the bottom with no regard to the orientation of the building in relation to the sun? The answer, of course, is air conditioning. Before the advent of AC, homes in warm climes were built with high ceilings, large, abundant windows, and big, friendly porches, the better to take advantage of a passing breeze. Trees were left standing for shade, especially along the south side, and tea was iced. The tea is still iced around here (and instant-cavity sweet) but someone like me is forced to get pretty creative when trying to keep a cave-like apartment cool in the summer, sans AC.
I realize most people are not going to tough it out when the mercury starts climbing, growing more determined as the pool of their own salty sweat expands around them, but for those of you who want to give it a try or at least get by with the thermostat set as high as you dare, I posted some tips on this site for staying comfortable in the heat a while back. And if you have any of your own that you’d like to share, let’s see them in the comments.
We talk pretty big around here, even if we do tend to focus on the smaller things that each of us can do to minimize our impact on the planet, and I’ve always been bothered by an inability to actually do a lot of the things we encourage on these here electronic pages. You see, for basically all of our adult lives, the lady and I have been what you’d call renters, a species saddled with severe limitations on the influence they have over their immediate surroundings.
That changed just this month, however, when we moved the detritus of our lives into a modest home in the suburbs. When the plumbing goes wrong, we get to fix it (a fact we’ve already confirmed.) But this also means we get to take a stab at turning our little slice of Georgia into an abode worthy of The Greenists. Read more…
Using green energy can benefit you in a number of different ways. In order to achieve all of the benefits that green energy has to offer, it is important to incorporate this technology into your life in an intelligent manner. This article is filled with a number of great green energy tips to get you started. Read more…
Any good Greenist probably already knows that one way to save energy around the house is to install a programmable thermostat for your home’s heating and cooling systems. You program the thermostat to cut back its efforts at night or when you’re out of the house during the day, and boom, you’re saving energy.
But what about the times when there’s an unseasonable change in the middle of the day? Do you reprogram the thermostat with every slight change in the weather? And do you remember to change the programming when you go out of town for the week? How about for the weekend?
On my quest to discover one-minute ways to change the world with the What You Can Do series, I have been fortunate to meet many inspiring people. On a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, I learned the importance of protecting the night sky from Dark Ranger Kevin Poe, also known as a “sworn enemy of light pollution”. We all know that sustainable living is critical to fight climate change, but many people don’t realize that the brightening of the night sky is more than an aesthetic issue. Losing the darkness of night affects wildlife, human health and contributes to global warming.
The International Dark Sky Association defines light pollution as “any adverse effect of manmade light”. Below are some surprising facts about light pollution and one-minute ways to help preserve the beauty of the night. Read more…
I know what I’ll be doing: Playing board games, reading a book, or just talking with friends by candlelight. Anything that doesn’t involve electricity between 8:30 and 9:30. Why? It’s Earth Hour!
Since 2007, households all over the world have turned off their electricity for one hour in a show of support for climate change awareness. It began in Sydney, Australia, but soon spread to the rest of the world. Last year, Earth Hour grew to include hundreds of millions of people across 135 countries.
So how do you participate? It’s easy: When 8:30 p.m. rolls around, your local time, just turn off the lights and unplug most everything that uses electricity. TVs, computers, and alarm clocks are easy. Light some candles and entertain yourself however you see fit from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. And you’re done! Hopefully it’ll inspire you to try and save energy during other hours of your life, too.
(Word to the wise: You could be an overachiever and unplug your refrigerator, but think about how much juice it’s going to take to get it back to the correct temperature after an hour. My advice is to leave the fridge plugged in during Earth Hour, because all your energy savings will be negated when it has to work extra hard to get back to the correct temperature.)
The Earth Hour site has all sorts of inspiring stories, photos and videos of people all over the world showing their support for the environment. There are also many ways to get involved with the Earth Hour movement aside from turning off the lights for an hour. The movement has grown so big that many famous landmarks turn off their lights to show support, including the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Burj Khalifa, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Sydney Opera House.
Have you observed Earth Hour before? What did you do to entertain yourself in the dark?
I recently found myself at the bottom of an appliance hand-me-down chain, not a bad place to be when you’ve been running a washer/dryer set that’s older than the Colorado Rockies (the baseball team, but perhaps also the geologic feature; they may have faux wood-grain panels, but no obvious signs of glaciation.) Actually, we’re keeping the old dryer because it still works fine, the “new” one reportedly doesn’t do such a hot job, and we hardly use the dryer anyway. The washer sprang a leak a while back, though, so we’ll take the opportunity to snag a free replacement.
Regardless of our reasoning, I found myself in possession of an unwanted and functionally compromised washer/dryer set. Read more…
The Modern Hubby is quite the beer aficionado and is getting back into brewing his own beer, an old hobby of his. To feed his habit, he purchased a used kegerator (or beer fridge or beer dispenser, or whatever you want to call it) to store our small kegs of beer, which means we’re now powering both a full-sized fridge/freezer unit plus the equivalent of a mini fridge. Not particularly environmentally friendly considering refrigerators use more energy than just about any appliance outside HVACs and water heaters, but the things you do for love, right?
Still, obtaining the kegerator got me curious about how I might make my fridges less of an energy suck outside of buying newer more energy efficient units, which just isn’t in the budget right now. Not to mention, refrigerators are large, unwieldy things that represent a huge chunk of waste if they’re not able to be reused.
I’m a huge fan of technology. It doesn’t matter what type of technology; it’s the fact that brilliant people come up with faster, better and easier ways to improve our lives, especially when it involves green energy.
With so much buzz about going green, survival options and clean energy, I wanted to take a closer look at portable solar-powered gadgets. I was fascinated by what I found and it posed a question:
Can tiny, portable solar cells change your life? Read more…
According toReal Simple, if every American made an effort to launder less — cutting out just one load of laundry a week per household — we’d save enough water to fill seven million swimming pools each year.
So if it looks clean, and it smells clean, call it clean and wear it again. Consider hanging worn clothes out on your clothesline to freshen them up between wearings.