Friday, January 9, 2009

Save the Bees! Go Native!

A couple of days ago I read an article about how people are still trying to figure out what happened to all the bees (you know, colony collapse). The article mentioned how people can help by planting NATIVE flowering plants. This will either attract more honey bees, or at least attract other pollinating critters (like butterflies). Either way, it is a good thing because if the bees won't come back, we need other pollinators to pollinate the crops. Honey bees are critical to crop pollination. 1/3 of the human diet in the United States comes from insect-pollinated plants, and honeybees are responsible for 80% of that pollination.

Another huge plus to planting native species is they require little to no watering because they are native to the area where they are planted, so they are evolved (yes, evolved) to survive without sprinkler systems. You can find out what plants are native to your area using the drop-down menu here: http://www.plantnative.org

You can also help the bees by eliminating your use of pesticides and fertilizers at your home. One thing scientists are finding in these abandoned bee hives is huge amounts of chemicals from pesticides, leading some to think that colony collapse disorder could have been caused by people using too many pesticides in their home gardens. So, go organic - it is better for literally everyone. Well, except for the people who make money selling the chemicals, but they've profited off that for long enough. You can learn more about organic lawn care here and organic gardening here.

You can attract butterflies to your garden by planting butterfly host plants. Just make sure the plant is native to your area, otherwise the butterflies it is supposed to attract won't be around. Milkweed is the host plant for monarch butterflies, and I have seen first hand how many will come to a garden with only a handful of milkweed plants. You can watch the larvae turn into caterpillars which eat the leaves, and then turn into pupa, and then butterflies! It is awesome.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New (Personal) Blog

I'm moving to Denver on Monday to start an internship at Earthjustice, a non-profit public interest environmental law firm. This is a majorly big deal for me, as readers of this blog will know, a dream come true. Minus the part about moving to Denver.

Anyway, while I'm gone I'm going to write a personal blog about what I'm up to there. I anticipate it including many posts about how I hate the cold and how I'm lonely and bored. But, there will probably be some less-complainy stuff too. :)

The new blog is called Fourteen Weeks, and you can find it here: http://somewhereimadeawish.blogspot.com.

Since I won't be taking law school classes, I'm hoping to update this blog more often too. 2009 should be a good one. Tell your friends.Link

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Eco Driving Test + Hypermilling

I just read this little snippet in onearth, Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) magazine, about an online eco driving test. You drive a virtual car and then it tells you if your driving is eco or not. I've kind of mentioned stuff like this on here before. Good things to do are don't idle, accelerate slowly and consistently, don't drive too fast, keep your tires inflated, etc. Adam is basically the master of this - the mileage he gets on his Volkswagen Golf is close to that of a Prius, just by obsessively following eco driving tips. I'm not as good as him (partly because my car is automatic, partly because I'm not as consistent), but I have been getting a lot better gas mileage since I started thinking about the way my driving habits relate to gas consumption.

So, head over to www.ecodrivingusa.com and read up on what you can do (and what you're already doing) to be an eco driver. Click "virtual road test"on the left to take the test. You can also watch a video from our great Governor Schwarzenegger.

There is also this whole crazy thing called hypermilling, where people meticulously keep track of their gas mileage in order to get different rankings of hypermilling status depending on how much their gas mileage is above EPA standards. This is how Adam became an awesome gas saver. If you google hypermilling you can find all kinds of info on how to get the maximum gas mileage from your car.

Spoiler Alert: You don't need a hybrid to get awesome mileage. This site has some good tips for beginners, that don't involve modifying your car's body or anything hardcore like that.

Here are some that I like and can actually remember to do almost all of the time:
  • Don't drive over the speed limit. 55 is ideal, so even going 65 is wasting gas.
  • Stop accelerating (foot off the gas) as soon as you see the cars ahead slowing down.
  • Try to avoid coming to a complete stop when you can - like if you see the light ahead is red, and you are going to be the first car, just slowly coast up to it so you don't get to the intersection until it turns green.
  • If you are at a complete stop, let your foot of the brake and let your car roll as much as it can before using gas. It takes a lot of energy to get a heavy car from a stop to a roll, so let gravity (or inertia, or whatever - I'm no physicist) do the work for you.
  • Use cruise control to accelerate. It will accelerate more consistently and slowly than using your foot on the pedal, and that will save gas.
  • Don't gun it. Ever.
Some of the tips you'll find are dangerous - don't even bother trying those. An example is tailgating semi-trucks really close. The idea is not to almost die to save gas. Use your judgment.

Once you start using these tips, you'll see that it just becomes a habit and you don't even have to think about it. For example, over the summer I got to school to take a final and realized I didn't have my computer with me. I had to rush home, get the computer, and rush back without being late for the test. So, I was driving 75-80 on the freeway - something that I hadn't done for many months. It was so crazy, it felt like the most dangerous thing in the world to be going more than 65!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy Recipe Review


I recently realized how rapidly Thanksgiving is approaching (especially since my family is celebrating the weekend before true Thanksgiving to save me from traffic hell). So, I commenced a search for the most delicious vegetarian gravy recipe ever. I've never made veggie gravy before, I always just buy it from the store. However, sticking to my new tradition of making everything I can home made, I decided the time had come for me to make my own gravy. I think one of the things that has stopped me is I had an unfortunate first experience with making a roux. I still don't know what I did wrong, but it is actually a piece of cake to make.

I found the recipe for the best vegetarian gravy ever at a lovely little site called Vegan Yum Yum. All of the recipes look amazing, but this is the first one I've tried. The gravy is mushroom, I recommend using cremini mushrooms. I also reduced the celery by half, and omitted the thyme because I hate thyme. It was the best gravy I've ever had. The recipe makes about 5-ish servings. The recipe is one part of a recipe for deconstructed green bean casserole, so scroll down a bit to find it.

We had our gravy with the best mashed potatoes I've ever made and my world famous vegan meatloaf. It was heavenly. I'm asking my mom to make the gravy for our pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving.

What are your fave vegetarian Thanksgiving foods?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Energy Saving Gift Idea For Wii-ers

With wired controllers for video game systems being a thing of the past, new wireless controllers use are using batteries to keep gamers gaming. I wouldn't call myself a "gamer", but I am a person who plays video games (my favorite being the Pikmin series for Nintendo Gamecube - besides Arkanoid). When we first got our Wii about a year and a half ago, we quickly realized we needed to do something about the wiimotes draining our batteries surprisingly fast.

So, we picked up a Wii remote charger at the local Game Stop. We chose the Nyko Wii charger (pictured), they cost about $35 at Game Stop, or you can get them for about $25 at Newegg.com. The downside is you have to take of the wiimote skin to charge it, but we don't use the skins, so it isn't a big deal. We've had ours for a bit over a year, and it still works perfectly.

There are countless other Wii remote chargers out there, Amazon.com has a bunch. Some of them look pretty sketchy, so I woudn't recommend just going for the cheapest one.

We have an Xbox 360 on its way, does anyone have an Xbox controller charger to recommend?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Elevator Energy

I hurt my ankle pretty bad last December (my one year anniversary is coming up), and I made it worse by playing soccer and Gaelic football. It also doesn't help that I haven't seen a doctor. So, for the past semester I've been taking the elevator at school because for some reason walking up stairs is the thing that hurts my ankle the most - even more than playing sports. Besides making me feel lazy, taking the elevator so much made me wonder how much electricity is being wasted because of me. So, I Googled it. I found this blog, where the author calculated out how much energy various elevator trips consumes, and then compared it to the energy common household stuff uses. The conclusion was an elevator doesn't use thaaat much energy - so I don't need to feel too guilty.

Still, if you aren't injured, take the stairs. It's for your health!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Why My Mom Hates Plastic Bags


This happened a few months ago, but I keep forgetting to tell the tale:

My mom went to the auto mechanic to get some stuff on her car fixed. After inspecting her car, the mechanic told her that a plastic bag had gotten wrapped around some part of the car's wheel and it had sliced through some very important part that I can't remember now. Apparently she had driven over a wayward plastic bag one day, and it got wrapped around the inside of the wheel . Then, from heat and what-have-you, the plastic bag morphed into a wire-like thing and sliced right through this important part I can't remember. Of course, this important part is also very expensive.

Several hundred dollars later, my mom has another great reason to hate plastic bags! (And litterbugs.)

I tried doing some research to see if the internet has documented this happening to other people...that got annoying real fast though, I wouldn't recommend it. Anyway, I was able to find one discussion thread about having plastic bags sucked into the exhaust system, and the smell of burning plastic that results (and lasts for several weeks).

Moral of the story: DON'T USE PLASTIC BAGS!

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