Acts of Weatherization

Posted in energy efficiency, Saving with tags , , , on September 30, 2009 by MarilynB
Our blue cellar ceiling

Our blue cellar ceiling

Foam between joists

Foam between joists

We’ve just had our crawl space and basement (cellar, if you’re not fancy) treated with foam spray. The foam spray should retain heat and cut our energy usage while reducing our energy bills and delivering a tax credit.

The process did not take long. The contractors showed at about 8 AM as expected. At 11 AM, I asked if they minded if I took the dog for a walk around the block. They replied that they were already done.

Our old house is drafty and rather cold in the winter. Even when wearing slippers and socks, our feet feel cold. We know we suffer immense heat loss. The foam treatment should reduce our heat loss and make us more comfortable.

The best factor is that we get a tax credit for our act of weatherization. We not only hope to see a longterm reduction in our heating costs but we will see additional savings on our tax bill. The money comes later but winter is soon. Hurry to stay warm and save!


Erase Your Trace

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 24, 2009 by MarilynB

This Tree Erases Carbon Dioxide

This Tree Erases Carbon Dioxide

What’s your annual carbon dioxide emission? You can find out at Erase Your Trace, a new tool from the City of Philadelphia. Erase Your Trace is a carbon calculator that estimates carbon dioxide usage by asking questions about your habits and behavior.

Whatever your usage is, Erase Your Trace aims to nullify it while increasing tree coverage. The project uses the CarbonPlus Calculator, developed by the U.S. Forest Service, to estimate carbon production. Using a carbon price at 20 dollars per ton, the price currently used by the Obama Administration, Erase Your Trace assigns a dollar value to your own carbon emissions. Users then donate part of that cost to The Fairmount Park Conservancy, which in turn will donate the combine money to neighborhoods for tree planting.

Trees help reduce carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas linked to global warming, and they reduce other pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone and particulate matter. Philadelphia currently has approximately 2.1 million trees that sequester 16,100 tons of carbon per year. Philadelphia’s trees also reduce urban heat island effect, decrease stormwater runoff, and increase property values.

While Ms. Philly Organic knows we can’t live without an impact and we can’t simply erase our carbon emissions, we can plant trees, benefit the city and parks, and minimize the effect of our carbon output with a few clicks of the mouse. Why not learn more and reduce the effect of your personal carbon production?

Carrotmobs: Now in Philly!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 27, 2009 by MarilynB

Carrotmobs are not like this.

Carrotmobs are not like this.

Carrotmobs, similar to flashmobs but completely different from protests and boycotts, are coming to Philadelphia. What is a Carrotmob? Carrotmobs encourage business to implement more environmentally sound policies by directing customers and sales to the business during a targeted time. The aim is to show the strength of green movement and to show how much money we have to spend, thereby encouraging targeted businesses to go greener.

The organizers work to identify businesses that are open to the message and that may have existing plans to become more environmentally sound. The Carrotmob organizers and the business arrange a time and date, then ask supporters to come and shop. It’s been so successful in some cities that Carrotmobbers form long queues just to make a purchase!

Carrotmobs started in San Francisco and are spreading around the country. Philadelphia is one of the earlier growth sights! There are also offshoots in Europe. To participate, you just have to shop at the right time and place. To learn the right place and time, you have to visit their blog or follow them on Twitter.

Recycling More Than Ever: Way to Recycle, Philly!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 15, 2009 by MarilynB
Fill Up Your Recycling Bucket!

Fill Up Your Recycling Bucket!

Single stream recycling has increased Philadelphia’s recycling rates by 46%. Our beautiful recycling trucks have collected 75,060 tons of household waste between June 2008 and June 2009. Philadelphians now recycle approximately 12.4% of their household garbage.

While this is exciting news, it’s still too low. It’s below the national average and is significantly lower than the 25% target rate established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the 1980s. In other words, although we’ve improved, we’re still behind.

How can we continue to boost our recycling rates? Recycle bank pays citizens to recycle in the form of coupons and cash. Philadelphia has not joined this popular program. Fines, unpopular sources of revenue in this tight economy, are proven ways to increase participation. There is anecdotal evidence of stepped-up enforcement but the truth is that Licenses and Inspections inexplicably laid off enforcement agents to meet Mayor Nutter’s budget.

While Philadelphia’s recycling participation has improved, we still have miles to go. Recycle Bank and enforcement can help increase participation city-wide and should be used to expand participation. Keep up the great work and keep moving forward, Philly!

July Potato Harvest

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on July 14, 2009 by MarilynB

Potatoes Freshly Dug and Washed

Potatoes Freshly Dug and Washed

After I heard rumors that in some US climates, gardeners can plant potatoes in the fall, Ms. Philly Organic decided to try. We dug a nice deep row and planted potatoes, each one separated by the length of Mr. Philly Organic’s foot. Underneath the potatoes, we left a little leaf litter to create warmth for the spuds, then we immediately hilled them.

The idea is that the potatoes will begin to develop a healthy root system in the fall, which will be warmed and protected in the winter by the decomposing leaf litter. No green shoots will appear until spring but they will appear much earlier than they would if you waited for the ground to warm up before planting. The root system will begin to grow potatoes right away, instead of needing time in the spring to develop and grow.

We saw our potato flowers early and Mr. Philly Organic tasted a couple, pronouncing them unbelievably delicious. This week, Ms. Philly Organic noted that the tops of the plant were dieing and so it was time to harvest! The above picture shows our yield from our lightly amended, compacted, clay soil.

The beauty of growing potatoes in the winter is that it allows for a dual harvest each year. After digging the potatoes, Ms. Philly Organic planted some beans and onions. A row of corn is growing in nicely behind the location for the row of potatoes. Potatoes are economic and easy to grow, even for beginners. Simply plant whole, partial, or even peels (tested years ago by Ms. Philly Organic and her mom). This fall, give up a flower bed to grow a few potatoes!

Calling All Hands: Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on June 23, 2009 by MarilynB

Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers needs 5 to 10 volunteers this Sunday, June 28 from 10 AM to noon. Remove invasive plants, plant trees and shrubs, rescue trees from vines, and perform trail maintenance in Wissahickon Park. All tools, gloves, and supplies are provided.

Contact Project Leader, Ron Ayres, at 215-653-0421 (h) or 215-483-4348 (c) for more information or to sign up.

First Step of Going Green

Posted in Uncategorized on June 18, 2009 by MarilynB

Pure Baking Soda: Green Clean

Pure Baking Soda: Green Clean

Recently Mr. Philly Organic and I had a slight plumbing problem: A small clog caused a slight back up into our utility sink. Gross!

We avoided using any harsh chemical clog dissolvers. This is especially important when a plumber might snake your lines because splash back could burn his face or hands.

We tried to reduce the clog with a technique that keeps our pipes clean and removed clogs in the past: baking soda, salt, and boiling water. There was a slight improvement but ultimately the plumber came out for a mechanical repair.

Unfortunately we’ve had this problem more than once but the baking soda, salt, boiling water technique has kept the pipes clear for two years. After the plumber’s visit, Mr. Philly Organic bought pipes and sewer plumber so he can mechanically fix the problem in the future. We also decided to perform more regular maintenance with baking soda.

What’s the recipe for the baking soda flush? Dump a cup of salt into your drain. Follow that with a cup of baking soda. Then wash it all away with a quart of boiling water. For smaller vanity sinks, reduce the amounts by one quarter or one half.

Sadly we had to clean out our utility sink. We still had old pine disinfectant in the house. Ms. Philly Organic has relied on natural cleaning techniques like baking soda for many years and assumes this is an old product from before we combined households. Why not throw it away and replace it with a green product? Simply, that’s not a green behavior. The first step of going green is not throwing away anything; it’s using up the toxic items first.

Throwing out toxic products does not prevent them from joining the water cycle. In fact, many chemicals are removed from treated waste water that comes out of drain pipes. They are not removed from the garbage dump but leech slowling into the ground water. So this time the green choice was to use what we found in our cabinet and to plan a replacement. In the future we’ll rely on vinegar, which has anti-microbial properties.