Letter to the Editor

My first attempt to write a letter to the editor was published! I’m a little shocked, but thrilled nonetheless.

IMG_0168Inspired by our Black Friday family outing downtown (I displayed my charging station comments in my post here) to check out the free electric vehicle charging stations, I drafted a quick letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. I was pleasantly surprised to find it in today’s opinion section. Check it out here! Continue reading

Power Trip

Myth: Solar and an electric vehicle would be expensive, unrealistic, unattainable, for people with a lot of cash. Solar and an electric vehicle will need to be part of our household’s “five-year plan.”

Fact: Tesla is drawing up solar plans on my house for me to approve this week and install next month. I traded in the mini van for a LEAF. I’ve paid no cash up front and I WILL BE SAVING SO MUCH MONEY. Oh yeah, and the planet, too.  Continue reading

Happy New Year!

Like all good resolutions, I’m going to admit I’ve outgrown mine from 2017. No need to laugh and jump and shout, “I told you so!” just yet. I’m not retiring my resolutions. But rather, the act of embarking upon them has brought me farther than any other resolution has ever carried me before. They need a tune up, because I know how to get more milage out of them. Continue reading

LED: Making the Switch

Wow, I just crunched the numbers. I just reduced my reduced my wattage consumption by 77%.

The bulk of our blog has focused on using less, reusing, zero-waste, reclaimed, etc. etc. One of my favorite catch phrases comes from the gorgeous Elsie Green House and Home reclaimed home goods store in Concord, CA, states,

Not making something new is the greenest thing of all.

During my home remodel, this catchphrase was often an inspiration. Not making something new made the case for my rustic reclaimed wood floors, funky 1960’s vintage light fixture, and delightful antique cabinet bin pulls. But when is it time to break up with the old and embrace the new? In terms of lighting, if I replace a working lightbulb, isn’t that wasteful? Shouldn’t I just replace an incandescent bulb with an LED as they go out?  Continue reading

Notes on my Monarch Adventure

You wouldn’t know it from my recent obsession, but I only recently learned about monarch butterflies. It happened randomly one day, as I crammed 20 or so odd books into a basket in the children’s section of our local library. As we read through the pile over the next week, I came across the book, Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs by Linda Vander Heyden. Now one of my favorite reads for inspiring and educating the budding environmentalists in my life (check out my favorite children’s books list), this bright book took ahold of our household. We loaded up for a trip to the Monarch Butterfly sanctuary in Pacific Grove, passed out milkweed seed packets to trick-or-treaters (my father in law was super thrilled about that. NOT!), and for planting the monarch larvae host plant, milkweed, in my new pollinator garden.  Continue reading

Three things you can do today… while waiting in line.

Greetings from the Denver, Colorado Hertz rental car line. Why this line is sooooooooo long. Luckily I’m armed with an iPhone on full charge. Here are three quick things I know I can do before I decline any vehicle “upgrades” less it be a hybrid.IMG_0645

1. Message your representatives- let your local, state, and/or national representatives know how you are feeling. Not necessarily about the line you are in (hopefully), but about your concerns about climate change. If you are fortunate enough to have representatives in line with your values as I am, you can take time to thank them as well. I just shot Kamala Harris a grateful shout out for co-sponsoring a single payer healthcare bill with Bernie Sanders and to keep up the good work defending California’s coastline and national parks. I also wrote my California state senator Mike Mcguire in support of SB-149 which comes up for a vote on Tuesday. It would require any presidential candidate to disclose their tax returns before appearing on the ballot.

2. Plan a beef and palm oil-free menu. Check out Lily’s post in time for a tasty burger on Labor Day. 

3. Email a company about their sustainability practices. Here’s an example Lily used for our favorite yogurt company. One vice I can’t seem to kick is GT’s kombucha with its plastic cap and ring. I have tried other brands with aluminum lids, and they just don’t quench my craving for the Booch. Yes, it’s wicked easy to make your own and I even had my brew streamlined to just how I liked it with my scoby Artem (every scoby needs a slutty name). but I still find myself picking up bottles Of GT’s. I contacted them via their website:

Hi!

I love your Kombucha!

I’ve made my own and tried lots of different brands but yours is the one I keep returning to. I drank it through both of my pregnancies. I found it to be a great substitute for a glass of wine in the evening and an effective tonic for nausea.

I’ve embarked on an adventure to curb my carbon footprint. One reason why I went shopping around and brewing my own was because I’m avoiding the consumption of plastic. I appreciate that your bottles are made of glass, but they are capped with plastic and sealed in a plastic ring. While plastics are technically recyclable, 90% isn’t. Furthermore, plastics are derived from fossil fuels and cannot biodegrade, so it’s a product that’s dirty to make and lasts the lifespan of the planet.

I’ve noticed other brands of kombucha, while not as tasty as yours, bottle differently. Some come with an aluminum lid and built in seal. Even better is a returnable bottle with reusable lid. Please consider switching to either these or another form packaging that achieves the goal of reducing waste.

I’d also love to hear more about what your company is doing to decrease your carbon footprint.

Kind regards from a fan,

Mellissa

 

Sent from my iPhone

New Old Floors with Perfect Blemishes

Months ago, Lily and I went on a delightful and kid-less adventure to a nearby salvage yard. They reclaim wood and metal from tear downs and sell and remake old items into something new again. Visiting the yard, like an antique shop or flea market, excites like a buried treasure hunt and serves as invigorating exercise for the imagination.

The show room highlighted floors from such products as wind-fallen maple and used walls from grain elevators. I plunked my credit card down on 1218 square feet of reclaimed Douglas fir shiplap, pocked with nail holes, with an ambiguous delivery plan. It felt rebellious and invigorating to have a green spin on replacing my water-damaged flooring.

I had only seen the product on the showroom floor, and while luxuriously wandering through the yard after taking care of the business of paying for the floors, I saw the pile of what I had purchased. I’m not going to lie, my heart sank: Apparently I had just purchased something barely acceptable for the fireplace? IMG_0110

The guy who unloaded it into my living room to acclimate thought so too. My otherwise delightful contractor quickly decided the same and stated, “I’m not installing that crap.”

While I could understand why he might feel that way, I wanted someone who understood the vision. Not wanting to convince a skeptic, I hired a craftsman who has been finishing and installing these floors for some time. He understood the beauty only time could impart to the wood, the patina that you can’t just create in a day, and the stories the nail holes could display. He said something that really struck me and had me thinking: when and why did floors need to become cabinet-quality and blemish-free? Homes used to be dirt floors or maybe simple wood. You walk on them, spill on them, live on them. Think of what they must endure! Then why do we freak out when they get inevitable scratches in them?IMG_0629

The first time I saw them in my house, they weren’t nailed down and the floor person wanted me to give him feedback. It was a jolt to adjust from our old light bamboo flooring. Did I marry a brunette when I only had a thing for blondes? I wandered from room to room and looked at every board. Some I thought were too rustic and would be turned over to the lighter side. Most weren’t and many of them were so unique, individually stunning, and intriguing. I began to feel like I was perusing a gallery, considering a piece of art with each slat. I would look at a board and think it was my favorite and then find another board that boasted even better blemishes and marks and then that one would become my favorite. A blemish, it turns out, is a floorboards’ best feature.IMG_0631.JPG

I love my new old floors. They are rustic, unique, and practical. They fit my taste and lifestyle. If I get a nick in them, it will only add to the charm. My favorite part, however, is that they were given new life and diverted from the dump. After all, not buying new is often the greenest thing of all!IMG_0625

 

Wool Insulation: How to Knit your House a Sweater

We are remodeling our house. What started from a pinprick leak in the ice maker tube to our freezer morphed into a kitchen remodel, and now a major overhaul to the infrastructure of our home. Not only are we talking new floors that warped from the leak, but we are replacing our incandescent lighting with LED fixtures and bulbs, replacing our original crumbling galvanized plumbing, and upgrading the hot mess our electrical panel turned out to be behind some fancy garage sheetrock. Its been a challenge, but I also know that our home will be much safer once its all said and done.

What a whole manner of sins sheetrock can cover up. My hidden shoddy wiring and fancy taping of illegal wires would be enough to give Smokey the Bear hemorrhoids. We uncovered what was luckily a ghost town of rodent condos. And whatever sort of crazy toxic insulation that had been sprayed on most of the walls along the back side of my house had “failed,” according to my contractor. They found insulation the texture of sand that had settled to the bottom half to one third of my wall space, where it was even used at all! Not only was it not insulating my house from temperature changes and energy waste, chunks floated around my exterior that my kids quickly thought was sooooo much fun to play with since it crumbled into a fine powder that was oh-so-enthralling. Gross! Why would I want my home lined with something I know is toxic, not healthy, and not at all something okay for my kids to be playing with?

My contractor was already pleased as punch with me because I had his guys remove all of the recycling from the waste bin. I’m sure he braced himself when it came time to ask me what kind of insulation I wanted to use. He was wise to know I wouldn’t stand for any of that pink cotton candy fiberglass crap.

I had heard of cotton insulation, with 80% recycled denim, and its actually pretty readily available and reasonably priced, quite comparable to fiberglass in fact. In fact if you aren’t about sheering sheep or are on a tight budget, denim is a great eco-friendly option! But when I sat down to do a little research of insulation types, and it was like love at first sight when I discovered there was such a thing as wool insulation!

I love wool. Its amazing stuff. I’ve talked about it on Lovelaughandmakelemonade before. I love wool socks, I knit my kids wool pants, and plugged wool underwear. It turns out to be a great insulation for your home as well.

Here’s a quick list to tell you why:

  1. Its renewable: sheep grow more wool after every shearing
  2. It takes 90% less energy to produce than traditional insulation
  3. Its biodegradable: compost it when you are done with it
  4. It lasts a long time, for the life of your building
  5. Its naturally fire resistant
  6. Its naturally rodent resistant
  7. Its naturally mold and fungus resistant, even if it does get wet
  8. It maintains its insulation properties even if it does get wet
  9. It absorbs formaldehyde, improving air quality
  10. Its safe to handle and install and requires no special protective equipment
  11. It expands in your walls rather than settling, increasing the overall seal an efficiency of your insulation
  12. Great acoustic properties

So I brought home a few ewes and got out my husband’s hair clippers and went work insulating my kitchen. Hehe. I didn’t. But that would work too!

Rest assured it comes in batts or as loose “blow in” insulation. I first tried to purchase wool locally, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t find anyone locally who carried it. I let everyone know when I called and visited that I was looking for wool insulation, “No not ‘wall’ insulation– well, its for your walls– but WOOL insulation. As in Bahhhh, like the sheep!” – so they could remember that there are customers out there looking for this stuff and will hopefully carry it soon.IMG_0096

It shipped from Oregon from a small company who was terrible about taking my order, answering my questions or returning my calls. Alas, I had it shipped and I ordered it from a green building supply company eco-buildingproducts.com, from a guy named Greg who took the time to answer all of my questions. One of my questions was, “Why are these guys so bad about returning a call or replying to an email and answering my questions?” The sales person’s satisfying reply was that he had experienced that with them before, but that they are actually a small company of a few folks who actually go out and tend to the sheep themselves, leaving the marketing and questions to people like him. Best excuse ever!

I found I could get a slightly higher R-value for less money by using the loose insulation, although it did take longer to install. It came stuffed tightly in a cardboard box with fabric to staple into place and hold the loose insulation. Guess what? It didn’t come wrapped in plastic either! Jazz hands! It was more expensive, but not prohibitive. As Lily pointed out, healthcare is expensive too! IMG_0104IMG_0106IMG_0107

While I noticed the dramatic acoustic benefits immediately, I’m curiously awaiting the colder season to really see how this stuff performs. Honestly though, it has little to go to improve upon what junk was posing as insulation in my walls. I relished the opportunity to learn something completely new while making my home safer, less toxic, and more energy efficient.