BMW i3 Home Movies

I was given a BMW i3 to film for an extended test drive. Being an electric car enthusiast, I decided to make it both a family video and promotional video to show my appreciation. It’s a great car for anyone who is in the market. The song, “I’m Going Home” is original music by Krista Parrish Murphy. You can find Krista’s music at http://www.kristaparrish.com.

Tree Hugger’s Anonymous

Tree hugger. What is a tree hugger? Who are they and what do they do exactly? Let’s examine the term. By definition, the Urban Dictionary defines a tree hugger as “an environmentalist or one who believes trees and all living things should not be cut down or harmed. Someone who works to protect the environment from destruction or pollution.” (1) It may come as a surprise to many that many environmentalists who embrace energy efficiency would opt to cut down trees on their property for the greater good. Yes, this does happen.

Recently, I saw a gentleman speak about politics and economics. This man, who I’ll call, “Ralph,” had a wide range of views about the state of the economy and where I should put my money. Ralph, isn’t a fan of Clean Tech or electric cars, and strangely enough, Ralph isn’t a fan of groups like PETA for hurting the development of windmill fields because of their harm of birds. “Interesting,” I thought to myself. Yet, and to my surprise, he went on to explain how he himself is a self-proclaimed tree hugger. It seems as if somewhere along the line there had be someone who had witnessed Ralph holding up traffic to let a family of turtles cross the road. I realized this joke must normally kill in stuffy, mothball scented conference rooms.

To call yourself a tree hugger for denouncing the deaths of imaginary birds or seemingly imaginary turtles may not be the best argument for swaying the investment decisions of your audience, but Ralph’s point made me question myself as a tree hugger a bit. I feel the definition of a tree hugger has become too convoluted. People who call themselves tree huggers need to think up a new term, myself included.

I’ve come to this conclusion because I’m devoting myself to becoming someone who lives off the grid one day. That is my dream for retirement. You can live on your yacht, I’ll live in my zero energy house. It’s a beautiful dream, and I know if I’m going to accomplish this I’ll need to rely on solar power and wind technology to make it happen. So if I wind up killing birds with my windmill, I’ll be sure to write PETA a check to cleanse my soul of the murderous rage of a tree hugger, and give the winged beasts a proper burial in a pet cemetery. Solar energy though, is something of a different animal.

I live in the Northeast, if you couldn’t tell by my literary accent that is. My town is Blue Bell, Pennsylvania in Montgomery County – a suburb of Philadelphia. As much as people like to say solar power is a waste of money in a town like mine, most of those people are just following the status quo – hang on to what we’ve got because change is the devil. Well, maybe not the devil, but close enough to raise some hairs. Solar power is alive and well here in the great Northeast. As a matter of fact, companies like, Solar City (2), are even installing panels for free plus a nominal monthly fee, which is offset by your energy savings, in exchange for the return on investment. If you want my opinion the return on solar investments called SRECS are hardly worth it since China entered the solar game a few years back, so the trade off from you getting zero to low cost energy compared to the 20+ year payback depending on SRECs is hardly worth the argument.

One thing you have to realize when installing solar is that shading from trees are the biggest issue. Just 10% of shade can reduce solar output by up to 50% or even shut down panels completely. This factor brings me back to my original statement that by definition, and even though I’ve devoted my life to living green, if I cut down trees to embrace the magic and mystery of solar power I may by default forsake my old friends with the beeswax crimped dreads. What a depressing thought. I’ll definitely get ignored at the next Phish concert. Mental note – don’t go to Phish concerts.

“According to American Forests, one tree stores about 0.5 metric tons of CO2 over its lifetime. We’ll assume that removing one tree lowers the net reduction of switching to solar by the same amount. Additionally, we also need to factor in the CO2 emissions involved in manufacturing the solar panels being installed. Producing a typical 5 kWh solar system emits about 10 metric tons of CO2, so the total CO2 emissions associated with removing one tree and installing a residential solar power system are about 10.5 metric tons.

For the removal of the tree to make sense, the net CO2 reduction will need to exceed 10.5 metric tons. That seems like a lot at first, but when you calculate the CO2 emissions you will offset by switching to solar from fossil fuels, it isn’t much at all. Your solar panels should generate at least 6000 kWh of electricity per year, and should last for approximately 25 years.” (3)

So yes, the math is there. If I cut down two or tree trees I can minimize my carbon footprint and begin my journey to live off the grid albeit sacrificing the love and respect of tree huggers everywhere. Now if I do need to cut down trees, what’s the best course of action and how much will it cost? I hit up my local friends and tree surgeons at Creative Design Tree Service to find out.

Their website has real information on the actual cost associated with a tree removal. Their online tree removal cost calculator takes into account not only the tree height and thickness but also the trees proximity to power lines, the percentage of the tree that hangs over a house or structure and the distance from the tree to the nearest place for a chipper truck. Creative Design gives you their tree removal pricing right online and you can even choose to have them come out and confirm the pricing (In Bucks and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania only). So if one of my readers in California or Brazil wants to know what to look for, the pricing factors shouldn’t change from one area to the next. The owner of Creative Design Tree Service, Tremaine, recommends you consider these factors when pricing for tree removal: Tree height, tree thickness, type of tree, power lines, overhang of structures (tree limbs over houses/sheds), distance to truck, time of year, recent storms/icing.

One thing I can suggest, in addition to the process of finding the right contractor, is maybe thinking about sending the trees to a mill. This is a good way to re-embrace Mother Nature and live by the rule established by our forefather Ben Franklin when he said, “Waste not, want not.” So hey in addition to solar panels, finding a reasonably priced tree surgeon and the banishment of a non-violent community of Phish fans, you can have yourself a fancy new banister or TV stand courtesy of that annoying oak tree that caused you to spend countless Sunday afternoons raking leaves. So by my count that’s a win for everyone.

References

  1. The Urban Dictionary. Tree Hugger by Rick. January 09, 2005. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=tree+hugger.
  2. Solar City Corporation. 2014. http://www.solarcity.com.
  3. RenewableEnergyWorld.com. Ralph Ralf J. Muenster. “Shade Happens”. February 2, 2009. http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2009/02/shade-happens-54551.

The Lake House

This is the home of my friend Jonathan David Lake. He’s a cancer survivor who found solace in going green and building himself a sustainable home, and he did it ten years before going green was even a thing. Jon and I are looking forward to collaborating on future projects to bring his story, and many others, to the masses to give inspiration and hope for those looking to “live better.”

CNN Renews Anthony Bourdain, Mike Rowe, Lisa Ling Series

Ryan Rex:

Great shows and excellent attitude toward the rest of the world. Love the programming!

Originally posted on Variety:

CNN is going full-steam ahead in its effort to broaden its primetime programming with docu-series, handing renewals to “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” and shows hosted by Lisa Ling and Mike Rowe.

“Parts Unknown” (pictured) a food-and-culture travelogue hosted by the outspoken chef, has become a flagship series for the all-news cabler. It ranks among CNN’s most-watched programs, and it has earned Primetime Emmys two years in a row for informational series.

Morevoer, “Parts Unknown” and Bourdain have served as a template for the kind of personality-driven unscripted series that the cabler hopes will bring a more reliable recurring audience to the channel amid the ups and downs of breaking news periods.

“This Is Life with Lisa Ling” and “Somebody’s Gotta Do It with Mike Rowe” bowed in September and October, respectively. In its Wednesday 9 p.m. airings to date, “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” has averaged 804,000 viewers —…

View original 63 more words

Is Going Paperless a Digital Magic Bullet?

It is said that each person in the US uses about 749 pounds of paper annually, which equals nearly 4 billion trees being cut down. Compound that number globally, and we have a problem. The US consumes 30% of the world’s paper supply, and wasted paper accounts for close to half our trash. (1) Those are big numbers. Paper is the way we do business. If you need to remember something, write it down. Making a presentation? Print out packets for everyone. Everyday it rains paper in offices all across the Union.

Using paper to transfer information is what office politicians call a “legacy process.” In many settings, paper will long remain the most practical choice for capturing information. In some situations, it is the only choice: paper does not break, run out of batteries, risk security breaches, or need upgrading. (2) I believe it’s more of a comfort thing, like a security blanket for your maniacal boss. Instead of being a plush wrap made of fabric plastic with pictures of Spiderman or My Little Pony, it’s a sheet of thinly sliced dead wood with office jargon and corporate policy painted all over it. These sheets of bleached paper make people feel safe, warm and happy. Paper’s a familiar tool that managers are less scared of loosing in the shuffle.

It would seem that Americans are more environmentally conscious. Corporations enforce paperless policies to reduce cost and consumption. However, global paper use has gone up 400% over the past 40 years. Yet, people are trying. Going paperless for the transfer of information is on the minds of business and consumers. It’s something that we can all get behind. All joking aside, I understand that using paper to do business, and store information is a legacy process that people are used to, but at the end of the day, who really wants all that clutter in their home or office?

Sending emails and storing information on the cloud could turn out to be a digital magic bullet for paper use. This would eliminate the wasteful practices while doing some good for Mother Nature. Companies like SingleHop are trying to make that transition seamless.

SingleHop is a well-informed tech company offering no nonsense digital services to store your information using cloud technology. I say no nonsense because they lay out the dirty underbelly of going paperless to show that no part of the industry is without a carbon footprint. It’s almost impossible to function in this world without using some type of carbon producing resource. So anyone who tells you they have the magic bullet for using paper is full of it.

The energy needed to send an email produces 300 pounds of carbon dioxide. Basically, each year the average person emails an amount of carbon equal to the exhaust of a 200-mile car ride. Looked at from a different angle, all the emails sent scurrying around the Internet in a single day generate more than 880 million lbs. (that’s 44,000 tons!) of carbon per day. (3)

Even though cloud technology may not be perfect, these service providers are on the cutting edge of this market while remaining energy efficient. Before signing up, SingleHop advises on ways to reduce energy consumption so you can use less space in the ether(net). They advise to: Stop replying to all on emails. By choosing less people to carbon copy (CC), you send fewer messages and therefore reduce consumption; Learn to use the search mechanism to look for old emails within your inbox. This way you stop requesting the same information you may have already received; Don’t spam; Unsubscribe to unwanted emails you receive to help clean out your inbox and reduce the energy used by others who send you emails; And lastly, start a conversation. Don’t send an email to someone across the room. Get up and talk to somebody. It’s actually kind of nice to have a convo once in a while. Unless they have coffee breath. Then I’d stay away from them too. I’m not about that noise.

Looking at the big picture, maybe storing information on the cloud isn’t perfect. Data centers use a lot of energy. But some of the ways SingleHop managed to reduce their own carbon footprint is by installing LED lights, taking advantage of cool-weather conditions — such as that chilly polar vortex that swept down near their data centers in Chicago last winter — and making strides in server virtualization, which helps run their processors at peak efficiency. (3)

Those who run and design data centers are also doing away with the N + 1 mindset. Meaning way back when they were first built, the engineers who designed these data centers said (in so many words), “Hey if we need one HVAC unit, let’s put in two!” Using twice the consumption. This form of wasteful behavior is now being phased out. Companies like Bes-Tech of Omaha, Nebraska are figuring out ways to re-engineer these existing data centers to use half the designed load to operate normally, and cool the machines per specification.

We all know that global warming, climate change (or whatever politically driven term you’d like to use) will not be solved by any single individual. It’ll take the action and efforts of global masses to have an impact, but the decisions you make in daily life will help. The average person is not a mindless consumer. We all have thoughts and feelings that guide our hands. Making connections with people help fulfill our lives. So have a conversation with someone however you can. We all know how busy it can get out there. Reach out using Facebook, Twitter, email, or whatever. Just remember – there are ways to do it more effectively, but to CC 500 people on a chainmail is not without its cost.

References

(1) Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, Recyclopedia, 2014. “How Much Paper Do We Use?” Viewed on September 18, 2014. http://phillupdbag.com/how_much_paper.php

(2) InformationWeek, Government, 2014. “5 Reasons Going Paperless Won’t Work.” Viewed on September 18, 2014. http://www.informationweek.com/government/enterprise-architecture/5-reasons-going-paperless-wont-work/a/d-id/1297391

(3) SingleHop, 2014. “How Green is Your Tech?” Viewed on September 18, 2014. http://www.singlehop.com/blog/how-green-is-your-tech/

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