Tuesday, May 27, 2008



While I don't think CFLs are going to be the big negative that crop-based ethanol is turning into, I still think they are over-hyped. That's a bit unfair, actually. I'm all for their widespread adoption. The lights in our house that are on the most are all CFL at this point. I'm still waiting for LED bulbs to be a smidge more affordable and the rest of our lights will drop their incandescents. (Getting closer, though)

Monday, May 26, 2008

A week with Mimi

Mimi was in town to help out last week. It gave me a chance to finish thing up at work while Mandy rested and recovered.

We started with indian food at the Gold Star in Framingham. Chris was a fan.

finishing the veggie korma

Mimi and Nonna took him shopping and came back with some cute stuff, including an Elmo sun hat.

elmo hat

Before she left, we stopped by EMC park in Hopkington.

at the park with Mimi

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cellulosic ethanol

One of the most intelligent things I've read on ethanol production lately comes from an anthropologist:

It seems to me that most of these drawbacks come from insisting on a monoculture, which -- if you have an efficient cellulose processing capacity -- I don't see why you care about. A real natural marsh or tallgrass ecosystem can't stand much mowing, but if you could tune a multispecies ecology for biofuel production, that would pose much less risk of invasive potential, and would be less trouble to look after. The tallgrass ecosystem was based on burning, anyway, so you should be able to maintain the soil while taking out hydrocarbons with minimal fertilizing.

Good insight, this. Cellulose is, for the most part, cellulose. At the point we commercialize cellulosic ethanol, it doesn't matter what the crop is. Just take whatever grows best locally and run with it.

I still think crop based biofuels are only a short term and/or small part of the solution. We can reduce our energy consumption many, many ways. We still need to eat. But if cellulose can be harvested from otherwise un-farmed land, maybe in lieu of prescribed burns, it'd be a win-win situation.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I'm hoping the folks at GreenovationTV get up and running soon. They've done a bunch of reasonable improvements to their 100+ year old house to dramatically reduce their energy and water usage. These are tips I could use.

Some things I've been thinking about that they did include adding insulation to the attic and going geothermal. They also mention doing an energy audit wither with a pro or an incense stick (Just hold it near a door and look for drafts!) What I don't know yet, is if we should insulate the basement ceiling. I think so, but the furnace is down there and gives off some radiant heat. The attic is definitely the priority for now.

Friday, May 9, 2008

An environmentalist, a conservationist, and an organic farmer walked into a bar...

... the realist ducked.

Yes, it's a bad joke. Sorry. I wrote the bulk of this last summer, but never posted it. I've added a couple things here and there and a conclusion. Enjoy.

Global warming is the buzzword of the year. Going green is all the rage. Cities and towns are drafting sustainability plans. Organics are already mainstream. Local food is so big, folks are on 100 mile diets. WholeFoods is just another grocery store with over-priced arugala. The assault on school food is making headway. Polar bears are the latest species to need saving. It seems like the wolves are OK for now. Condors are coming back and the pygmy rabbits are next. Environmental justice is picking up steam. We now know it's bad idea to build schools near freeways. People are beginning to realize that there are downsides to living in suburbs. We've learned some hard lessons about affordable housing projects.

For progressives, things are great. Except there is a small problem. We're starting to get in each others' ways. Conservationists are challenging wind farms because birds get killed. 100 mile diets often require driving from farm to store to market to collect a full menu and therefore rely too heavily on cars. Diesel engines are usually more fuel efficient, but produce ugly and hazardous soot. Should reclaimed land be returned to the wild, farmed, or developed? Cities are more sustainable, but whow do you learn to appreciate nature in a concrete jungle?

Fuel cell and electric vehicles just move energy use elsewhere. Biofuels use less energy, but require land. As we are seeing this year, food is becoming more expensive. New technologies reduce pollution and energy use, but populations still grow.

More problematic is that the goals are too simplistic. We need to reduce carbon emissions. Yes. Capturing CO2 may slow global warming, but it doesn't save energy. Alternative energies are great, but we still need to reduce usage because solar and wind sources are finite, nuclear has it's own issues, and the population keeps growing.

There is, of course, far more common ground than not, but choices are not as clear cut as we'd like them to be. It is still critically important at this point to just make the world as a whole aware that there problems. As we begin to focus on these problems, though, some hard choices loom. I believe a general philosophy of sustainability will guide us well. What choices can we make that will ensure we are still here in a century or two?

Garlic Mustard Pesto

I heard this from the Environment Report. It isn't really a practical idea that will reduce your carbon footprint and we're not going to eat our way out of this particular minor ecological catastrophe. However, it's a fun illustration of a sustainable mindset.

Garlic mustard
is a weed that is crowding out wildflowers and inhibiting seedling trees. Conservationists are pulling these guys out of the ground all over the northeast and tossing them in the garbage. Here we go again, throwing away anything we don't want. According to the story, that's a bit of a waste because they are edible. Brought to the new world by immigrants, they are apparently pretty tasty. The seeds taste like mustard; the leaves, like garlic; and the roots, like horseradish.


Monday, May 5, 2008


It interesting that an country whose wealth comes largely from oil is doing something this radical.


My guess is that they understand that sustainability isn't just about energy. It's about all our resources. They only have oil and sun and both are limited. But they also have wealth and some foresight.

Granted, Abu Dhabi is pretty much a beacon of capitalism and excess, but it's still a cool idea. Good for them.