Archive for the ‘Green & Frugal’ Category

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BeingGreen: Staying Warm & Cool Without Electricity: Part 2.

April 10, 2009

Even though I conveniently forgot to do this one last week (warning: Script Frenzy will ruin your life, kthxbai), I decided that there was no way I was going to let this Friday pass without wrapping up this topic.  So here I am.

In the last article, I covered various methods for staying warm without eating up your electrical bill.  Now I move onto a greater challenge: staying cool.

The reason I view it as a greater challenge is because, unlike heat, your body does not produce coolness.  You have to get it in from the inside.  More accurately, you achieve it by removing heat from your body.  Wearing cool clothes helps with this process, via the same method that allows it to make you cold in cooler weather, but only if the air is sufficiently cool.  If the air is warmer than you, you’re going to end up absorbing heat no matter what you wear.

So how do you stay cool?  Well… there are a few options.

  1. Stay hydrated.  Sweat, though unsightly and often malodorous, is your first line of defense against heat.  By sitting on your skin, it helps to suck heat out from your body and… er… I’m not entirely sure where the heat goes.  I only know that it works.  Drink an adequate (not excessive!) amount of water so that your sweat glands have something to secrete.
  2. Eat/drink cold stuff.  Ice water, ice cream, and frozen fruit will all suck heat from your body (and taste darned good in the meantime).  Just watch out for the sugars, and don’t overdo it.  The only thing worse than being hot is being hot and sick on sugar or water.
  3. Go to your shower – or your kitchen sink – and spray down your hair.  As mentioned earlier, water sucks out body heat, and there’s no better place to lose it than your head.  In addition to your head’s basic heat-loss properties, your hair will trap the water and keep you cool for a longer duration of time.
  4. Take a cool shower or bath.  This method has been employed by both animals and humans for as long as there have been animals and humans with temperature-regulation problems (or pretty close, anyway) and for good reason.  Take the sweat effect and magnify it, and you’ve got what a bath can do for you.  If you don’t have access to a bath, or don’t want to use the water, wet a cloth and wipe down your face, your chest, and behind your ears.

Finally, there are a few common-sense tips that you can follow to make sure you don’t pick up excess heat:

  1. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.  These will help to reflect heat away from you while trapping any cool air you might accumulate.
  2. Stay indoors as much as possible.  I know; who’d have thought it’d be green to avoid nature?  But it’s easier to get and stay cool in a controlled environment.  Go outside where it’s hot, and you end up reabsorbing heat, which means you have to get cooled down all over again.  (Pool parties are excluded.)
  3. Wear shoes only if you’re walking on a hot surface.  If the surface is cool, it’s better to lose the shoes and let the heat leak out through your feet.

That pretty much covers it… and it’s about twenty-five minutes until midnight, so it’s off to bed for me.  Adios.

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BeingGreen: Hunger vs. Cravings.

April 4, 2009

Dang, it’s amazing how a day of formatting your computer can throw off your schedule.  This technically should have gone up yesterday (of course), but it ended up getting delayed.  Don’t even ask where iLOL’d went.  It didn’t tell me.

Anyway, I’mma talk about food some more.  This time: learning the difference between hunger and cravings.

I have this problem a lot.  I’ll have a day or so when I consume more bread than usual (read: any), and it throws me completely off-guard.  For the next couple of days, I have to deal with grain cravings.  And it doesn’t matter what I eat.  I can have two eggs, a sausage patty, and an orange, and I’ll still be getting this message from within: “Hey!  Did you eat your BREAD yet?”  So I get the false impression that I’m still hungry and attempt to stave it off with soy nuts and whatever else.

It just doesn’t work.

No matter what kind of diet you eat, you’ve probably come up against this kind of thing.  Consume something that used to be a staple in your diet – be it bread or soda pop – and your body reacts as though it were welcoming an old friend.  “Hey, welcome back!  You should hang around forever!  Wait, what do you mean you have to leave?  Come baaaaaaaaaaaaack!”  Indulging the cravings doesn’t help.  The only way to get rid of them is to ignore them.

But how do you tell the difference between a craving and hunger?

Sometimes it’s pretty obvious.  You’ve just eaten a full meal, and your body is niggling you to eat more; it’s going to be fairly apparent that you don’t actually need more food.  Other times, not so much.  Suppose the last time you ate was a couple of hours ago.  How can you know for sure?

Finally, I devised a test that seems to cover it.

It’s pretty simple.  Before eating something, I consider consuming different foods.  The thought of omnomnomnominating a piece of bread will often make my body send off pathetic cries of deprivation.  But the thought of eating something richer – like a glass of milk or a dish of vegetables – will elicit the opposite response: “No, don’t!  I couldn’t eat another bite!”

If that’s the case, it’s definitely a craving.

So, what to do if you’re not hungry but craving some kind of food?  Quite simply: ignore it.  Remove yourself from the area of temptation (i.e. the kitchen).  Get busy doing something that is either mentally or physically engaging.

Or just quit buying the food that’s giving you the cravings in the first place.

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BeingGreen: Gift Wrapping.

March 20, 2009

Okey-dokey.  It’s late and I’m tired (busy working on upcoming Script Frenzy project), so rather than writing about something complicated I’m going to keep it pretty brief and write about green gift wrapping.

Gift wrapping is a total menace.  You get this icky shiny paper and a load of tape and cut out huge sheets to wrap stuff in, then a couple of days later you give the gift to the recipient, who tears off the paper and stuffs it in the trash.

Eew.

So how does one green their gift wrapping?

The most popular method is furoshiki, or Japanese cloth giftwrapping.  You just take a big square piece of cloth, tie it appropriately, and it’s good to go.  No tape, and the cloth is reusable.  Here’s a video on YouTube that demonstrates how to tie furoshiki.

Another method is to wrap your gifts in paper that was originally used for something else – old magazine pages, perhaps, or paper grocery bags with painted shapes on them.  This works best for smaller gifts, and some caution is needed to make sure it doesn’t look cheap.

If you’re not too hung-up on wrapping, gift bags are also a good alternative.  While most of them aren’t made of green materials, they have the excellent property of staying intact when the recipient gets their gift, and can be reused.  Many times if necessary.

Then there are the flourishes you put on your gifts.  I admit to having a huge weakness for wrapping gifts in ribbon – preferably the annoying two-way ribbon that you can barely get off the gift package and comes with a couple of cute little curls that you top with a bow.  The bow isn’t so bad – you can use the same ones for years on end, provided they don’t get mashed – but the strings are pretty much toast once your gift-givee breaks out the scissors.  You could use cloth ribbons, but in my experience it doesn’t make a difference; they get tossed anyway.  Best green option = skip the ribbons.

…er, lost my train of thought here.  Wait, found it again.  Geez, it’s too late to be doing this.

The best option I’ve found for gift-wrapping is simply not to do it.  Of course, this has the unfortunate side effect of not having a gift to open, but if the gift is spectacular enough the recipient isn’t likely to care.  Last year’s Christmas presents were handed out from a plastic bag; oohs and aahs abounded over the handmade pinecone Christmas trees.

So although it is prudent to be green with your wrapping, it seems that the really good reactions are going to come from the gifts anyway.  What does this mean?  Well, certainly not that you should stop wrapping all gifts; kids especially love the experience of unwrapping.  But you might consider it.  And if not, try furoshiki or gift bags.

Geez… I’m starting to sound like Green Girl.  I’ve got to get to bed.

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Green Friday: Cutting Vampire Power.

January 9, 2009

Here we go: the first installment of what I hope to be a weekly… what do you call it?  Newsblog?  Blog letter?  Blewsletter?  Just… definitely not the last one.  I’ll go with “educational blog entry” for now.

Despite all the big, shiny words I used in my article a few days ago on being green, what it means to me, and the fact that we all should be doing it, the phrase “going green” still puts images into my mind of funny-smelling hippies in grass huts.  Well, obviously this isn’t going to work.  Very few people I know how to live like that, and methods to genuinely green yourself in your lifestyle seem to be few and far between.

Fortunately, in my time on the Internet, I’ve encountered a few methods – some of which are just as overwhelming as the green movement itself, but many of which are easy to do with just a few adjustments to your daily routine.

One of the very basics is cutting vampire power.

I touched on vampire power in my entry “Being Green: A Primer”, and now I’m going to expand on that.  (Most importantly, I’m going to explain what the heck it means and what you can do about it.)  Vampire power, sometimes called “phantom power”, is the electricity being used by an electronic device that is supposedly inert.  Like your Wii, after you turn it off.  See the little orange light on the front?  It’s a helpful indicator that the Wii isn’t completely shut down.  Rather, it’s in “standby” mode.  It’s not doing any actual work, but it’s utilizing electricity to keep it in a semiconscious state so that the next time you turn it on, rather than waiting for the machine to boot up you can go straight to processing.

If your Wii is anything like the one around here, it – well, for that matter, all of your power-hogging electronics – gets a decent amount of traffic during the day, so I’m not going to insist that you unplug it every time you get done with it.  But any time your family won’t be able to use it – at night, for example, or while you’re away – you should definitely pull the plug to keep it from sapping electricity.  The same goes for any other electronics: DVD players, computers, and any other non-critical device that is constantly running a little light or seems to boot up unusually fast.

Unplugging goes a bit beyond undercover power use, though.  Anything that you don’t actually need to leave running should be unplugged or at least switched off.  If you, like me, have a bedroom clock that never seems to be set right, either set it to the correct time or pull the plug*.  And while it may seem prudent to leave your TV running to ward off burglars, it may save more money in the long run just to invest in a burglar alarm**.

Lights are another energy-draining bear.  It probably goes without saying that nightlights – those cute little shaped thingies that you stick directly into the wall socket – are a considerable power waster, so unless you absolutely cannot sleep without its reassuring glow (try it for a few nights), take it out of the wall.  Also shut down any unnecessary¹ house lights, including your porch light, and any decorative lights you may have up¹¹ (such as Christmas tree lights).

At this point, you’ve probably got all your critical systems shut down.  The house is still, dark, quiet and maybe a little scary.  There’s still a bit more that you can turn off, though, if you want to go the rest of the way.  Plug-in clocks with a battery-based memory system can be unplugged, as can chargers for fully-charged electronics.  (Some of them don’t really pull power unless the device is charging.  If in doubt, feel the adaptor box after it’s been plugged in for a while; if it’s warm, take it out.)  Going beyond the nighttime realm, heated waterbeds may be unplugged during the day (provided they don’t get too cold; you might like to do some testing).  Christmas lights that you don’t get around to taking down until June should at least be shut off after the first of January.

The benefits of all this aren’t quite as apparent as those of other green efforts, but they are certainly there.  Cutting down on your power helps simply by reducing demand, leaving more energy out there for other to use.  It helps to reduce environmental impact, by cutting down on the work done by coal or nuclear power plants.  And of course there’s the part that you’ll really like: it cuts down on your power bill.  You might say that, in a way, you’re getting paid to do this stuff every night — and how cool is that?

*I’ll be doing one of those today.  Haven’t decided which one yet.

**The usefulness of leaving your TV running is questionable anyway.  It becomes pretty obvious after observing your house for a few days that no one’s actually using it.

¹Unnecessary house lights do not include those used to ward off burglars.

¹¹You can green these a step further, by replacing old-fashioned Christmas lights with LED lights.  Having tested them personally, I can honestly say that these look very Christmasy and otherwise festive.