By Lisa Loomis
Week three of our carbon diet here at The Valley Reporter and the white plastic bags in our wastebaskets by our desks are mostly the same ones we had three weeks ago because we are not filling them. It's a small thing, but it means saving the nine white plastic bags of trash we'd normally create in a week from going in the landfill, not to mention saving the bags themselves.
There are slats in the floor that actually move and the recyclable materials "walk" out the back of the trailer. Those trailers are taken to the Chittenden County Landfill which has a fancy sorting machine that separates the glass from the tin from the plastic and the paper. From there it is sorted, bailed and sent to market.
Locally, residents can take their recycling to the Moretown Landfill for free. There's a charge at the transfer station in Waitsfield.
Onward. First a report on our science project -- the composting cup. A coworker said, "Hey, isn't that my Tupperware container?" upon visiting the cup this week. Uh, yes, it is -- sorry. It's really slimy now and multi-colored. Visitors have stopped in to view it and offer opinions. It is breaking down; without burying one next spring and checking it every month, there's really no way to know how it might fare in the ground with the worms crawling in and out.
This week's homework from David Gershon's <MI>Low Carbon Diet<D> includes getting to know your appliances. He starts with the hot water heater -- which should be set to 120F and should be turned to "off" or "pilot" when homeowners go on a trip. He suggests insulating heaters made before 1989 with a blanket and foam sleeves. Solar hot water heaters will eliminate almost all emissions from water heating, assuming the house is suited to solar hot water heating (check out www.eere.energy.gov/solar). Fixing up hot water heaters earns you a credit of 150 pounds of carbon annually. Adding the blanket to older heaters yields another 175-pound credit. A solar water heater equals 2,500 pounds in annual carbon savings.
Switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs yields immediate savings in the electricity bill as they use 25 percent of the energy of traditional bulbs. They cost more to buy, although the price is dropping, and they last 10,000 hours compared to the 1,000 hours of a typical incandescent bulb. Switching to compact fluorescent bulbs in rooms where lights are on at least four hours a day saves 100 pounds of carbon PER BULB per year.
Air leaks around doors, windows, electrical outlets, fireplaces, attics and other parts of the house create heat loss in a house equivalent to leaving an average window open all year long. The heat to compensate for that loss represents up to 800 pounds of carbon emissions annually. Seal air leaks with weather stripping, outlet insulators, caulk, insulating foam, window putty and door sweeps.
A well-tuned and maintained furnace runs more efficiently than one that is not. Tune it up and garner a 300-pound credit annually. Seal and insulate warm-air heating ducts and get an 800-pound credit annually. Buy a new energy-efficient furnace and get a 2,400-pound credit.
Other things to consider: We had a brief discussion here this week about the truth/rumors/facts about whether it is or is not okay to let your car run to warm up. Opinions vary, needless to say. The bottom line: According to carbon busting websites it's bad for the environment to leave a car running and it's bad for the engine. It's bad and unnecessary to run diesel engines for more than a brief warm-up period as well and it is absolutely not necessary to run them to keep the fuel from "gelling."
Twice this week, this writer went to the coffee shop only to return without java due to forgetting to bring a sippy cup. The third time, I did not forget! It's easy to remember to bring reusable grocery bags back out to the car if you hang them on the door handle so you have to touch them to go out of the house. Remembering to bring the reusable grocery bags into the grocery store takes a little practice. Joan Rae, Fayston, offered up another tidbit on what to keep with you at all times: "containers to put leftovers from a restaurant dinner; reused plastic bags for carrying loose vegetables or fruits (of course these can be carried with your reuseable grocery bags.) When buying in bulk bring your own container. And buying in bulk is a definite plus since it cuts down on packaging."