Thursday, November 21, 2013

What's better than heating your home by consuming natural resources?

Many people turn on their furnaces and space heaters full blast as the weather turns cold.  While this is certainly the most convenient, and modern method to get warm and be able to wear shorts 365 days a year, it is not the best one.  Instead, take out your sweaters, long johns, wool pants, and so forth and put them on.  If you don't have adequate clothes, walk over to a thrift store and spend some money, it goes to a good cause.  If you have a little more money, support one of the great merino wool brands available today, my personal favorite is Ibex.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Green Winter Clothing Redux: Merino Wool

I have already extolled the virtues of merino wool for green winter clothing before.  It is a superior fabric, both from a performance standpoint and an environmental impact aspect.  Although Patagonia is one of my favorite brands, they are not the only great company these days.  If you aren't able to find something second hand at a thrift store or online auction, there are several companies and pieces that I would recommend.

Below is a list of the items that are in my regular winter rotation, this post appeared previously on my other blog ATerrificLife.

I am a huge fan of merino wool.  It is warm, soft, comfortable, and stylish.  Not only that, but it is environmentally friendly! Only downside is the relatively high cost.  I think all considered it is worth it, especially if you are careful to shop during sale times!

First item is my Smartwool, gray stripe s/s 

This is a great, versatile piece and I am very happy with it, need to get more short sleeves for the slightly warmer months.

Ibex Zepher Zip - Ibex' thickest base layer.  Very soft! pretty warm and stylish, although it is a little bit big for me as it is a size large.  Certainly not a deal breaker.  Purchased on Black Friday from the Ibex store on Newbury St, Boston.

Icebreaker Mondo Zip Tee - Bright red, a favorite of my wife.  A very slim fitting piece, I think this has to do with the provenance of Icebreaker, people not from North America are just smaller!

Ibex Woolies - Thinner than the Zepher and more appropriate for wearing as a layering piece.  I like the black and white stripe design.  This is also the piece I sleep in most often!

Ibex Shak - given to me by my wife, its one of ATL Essential: Winter Edition because it is such a great piece!  Much thicker, not a base layer in any but the most outlandish locations.  This is an amazing mid layer and can even be worn as an outer layer on milder days.  I tend to pair this with my Smartwool short sleeve.

I sometimes wear synthetics too. Patagonia Capilene 3 and a Regulator Zip fleece mid layer.   Not as warm and tend to get stinky, but I got them awhile ago.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Go Green for Free

Going green is often done by those who are thrifty in method, it can be a great money saver over time, but one of the biggest problems is start up costs.  Not everyone has $35,000 laying around to buy a Prius and not necessarily everyone can afford to buy from a CSA.  I would definitely argue that both of these things are worth the money, but that is beside the point.  I wanted to present some ways to go green that won't cost a penny, and hopefully will have a positive impact.

1) Reuse - Reusing stuff is one of the simplest ways to go green for free.  Need rags?  Don't buy them from Target, cut up old threadbare shirts or sheets, these make perfect rags.  Storage containers?  Reuse old grocery bags, beer crates, produce boxes!

2) Recycle - Take your old bottles and cans to be turned to cash in bottle deposit states, something that I think should be expanded.  In those states you will make 5-10 pennies per can.  Even if you don't live in one of those states, recycling require minimal effort, especially in single stream recycling communities.

3) Borrow - Before you go out and buy something new, especially a book or media, ask your social network if they have it available for you to borrow.  Maybe you can repay them buy letting them borrow one of the many things you already own, or trade another service such as cooking or watching their children.  Libraries are a great resource, not only for dusty old books, but DVDs and Blu-Rays are available in most towns.

4) Re-gift - Giving green gifts is an extremely effective way of saving money.  You can bake, cook, build or create online tons of gifts that will be appreciated.  You can also let your extended family know that you would prefer they not purchase you any items for upcoming events.  Let them know your philosophy about buying frivolous things and the impact it has on the environment.  They might think you a little eccentric, but will respect you.  If you have something that you received as a gift, don't feel bad to re-gift it to someone else, just make sure you don't give it back to the person who gave it to you!

5) Exercise outside - Don't get me wrong, I love to exercise in the gym, but that $30 a month that Gold's gym takes from you each month really adds up.  Not only that, but they keep the lights, TVs, and legion of machines on 24 hours a day at many gyms, no need to support that!  Get outside, take a hike, run, walk, play.  It's free!

I hope I can come up with more cost-free tips to go green, but feel free to check out my list of 20 Effective Ways to Go Green that Make a Difference.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Western Mass CSA: Introduction

As a relatively recent new resident of Western Massachussett's bucolic Pioneer Valley, I am very happy with all of the great agricultural options that are available near by, especially compared to Boston, where I was born and raised.  There are tons of local farmstands and it is not at all uncommon to drive by a farm.  I have always been fascinated by CSAs, which is an acronym for Community Supported Agriculture.  It's basically a pre-paid subscription to a delivery of vegetables from a specific farm.  You put up support, often before the planting even occurs, then you reap the benefits of the harvest.  The benefit to the farm is that they are secured funding and customers, and the benefit to you is you are guaranteed whatever food is produced at the farm that summer.

Some of the things that are attractive to me, are that I would be supporting a local farm.  This is good, because local food is often fresher and certainly greener.  I will not be contributing as much to the pollution associated with full size agricultural operations or the transport of the food to my local market.  It will force me to eat more vegetables, which have a lower environmental impact than meat does.  They are also likely healthier, which supports a secondary goal of improving my health.  Finally, it will force me to be creative, as CSAs are known for sending all kinds of oddball veggies in their assorted weekly pickups.  I am struggling to become a decent cook, and one of my trends is that I tend to buy and cook the same things all the time, hopefully the CSA veggies will force me to do otherwise.

Downsides are the big upfront cost, probably in the $600 range.  This is a lot of money for me, but if I break it down into 20 weeks of vegetables, its only $30/week, not too crazy.  I fear that at times I will need to augment my CSA veggies with others to make some of the dishes that I plan, but hopefully that will not run more than an additional $10/week.  If i budget out $60 a week in meat/cheese/other veggies, I should be able to achieve a $100/week food budget, which would be great.  On the other hand, I could take the $40/week and go to a local farmers market or Whole Foods, I would be paying more per item, but I would have greater choice over my elections.  Also, I am only cooking for myself and my wife, hopefully this will not be way too many veggies for me and her, as she is already not the biggest vegetable fan to begin with!  Finally, I need to be able to pick up on my schedule, which is often quite busy during the week's business hours. 

In my next post, I will compare the various CSAs available here in Western Mass, and make a decision based on the various factors that are valuable to me.