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Little steps - April 20

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


How hard is it to live plastic-free?

Anne Watson, Guardian
Anne Watson took on a challenge for Lent this year and gave up plastic. She shared her experiences on Twitter and here looks back on what she found
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For six weeks over Lent I stopped buying anything plastic. It's not a traditional sacrifice like chocolate or red wine but there's a flotilla of non-biodegradable plastic rubbish in the Pacific three times the size of Britain and I wanted to stop adding to it. I also wanted to know if it was actually possible to live without the stuff. I looked around my flat and the truth dawned that everything in it had come wrapped, packed or capped in plastic.

Food packaging accounts for most of our plastic waste and it's often completely unnecessary. It's frustrating to go into the local supermarket and not be able to buy a plastic-free cucumber. I don't need oranges to come in plastic bags or little plastic windows in cardboard boxes or plastic seals under the lids of jars.

Toiletries and cosmetics were clearly also going to be a challenge.
(17 April 2009)



Bartering is a Modern Trade

Sarah Lindenfeld Hall, The News & Observer (North Carolina)
Cash-strapped companies and people are putting a new and sometimes electronic spin on an age-old form of commerce - bartering.

As the recession has deepened and unemployment has climbed, more people are trying to husband dwindling dollars and coins by exchanging their goods and services for somebody else's. Bartering has always been around, but it rises in popularity when times get hard, such as the Great Depression.

But this time around, it's not an exchange of eggs for fence mending between neighboring farmers. It's swapping Web design services for power washing the house. And it's taking place online.
(18 April 2009)
Also at Common Dreams.



Third-World Stove Soot Is Target in Climate Fight

Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times
KOHLUA, India — “It’s hard to believe that this is what’s melting the glaciers,” said Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, as he weaved through a warren of mud brick huts, each containing a mud cookstove pouring soot into the atmosphere.

As women in ragged saris of a thousand hues bake bread and stew lentils in the early evening over fires fueled by twigs and dung, children cough from the dense smoke that fills their homes. Black grime coats the undersides of thatched roofs. At dawn, a brown cloud stretches over the landscape like a diaphanous dirty blanket.

In Kohlua, in central India, with no cars and little electricity, emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, are near zero. But soot — also known as black carbon — from tens of thousands of villages like this one in developing countries is emerging as a major and previously unappreciated source of global climate change.

While carbon dioxide may be the No. 1 contributor to rising global temperatures, scientists say, black carbon has emerged as an important No. 2, with recent studies estimating that it is responsible for 18 percent of the planet’s warming, compared with 40 percent for carbon dioxide. Decreasing black carbon emissions would be a relatively cheap way to significantly rein in global warming — especially in the short term, climate experts say. Replacing primitive cooking stoves with modern versions that emit far less soot could provide a much-needed stopgap, while nations struggle with the more difficult task of enacting programs and developing technologies to curb carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.

In fact, reducing black carbon is one of a number of relatively quick and simple climate fixes using existing technologies — often called “low hanging fruit” ...
(15 April 2009)
As Elisabeth Rosenthal reports later in the article, cook stoves that belch smoke have catastrophic health effects in the Third World. -BA



California wants to pull plug on energy-guzzling TVs

Wyatt Buchanan, San Francisco Chronicle
California state regulators, who have limited automobile emissions and required large utilities to increase use of renewable energy, now are taking aim at a ubiquitous household item - the television.

Consumer demand for bigger, flatter and fancier TVs has dramatically increased the amount of energy needed to watch the tube, officials say. The California Energy Commission says a 42-inch plasma television uses more energy than a large refrigerator.
(14 April 2009)



The Ethicist: Okay to absorb neighbor's heat

Randy Cohen, New York Times
Q: I’m the proud owner of a new, highly efficient, green condominium. However, this winter I noticed something strange. If I turn off my furnace, my apartment stays warm even in subzero temperatures because of ambient heat coming through the walls and ceiling of my neighbors. Is it ethical to keep the furnace off? It seems a little like stealing to me. T. HOLLISTER, CHICAGO

A: You do gain heat from your neighbors, and they gain heat from you: that’s efficiency, not theft — an ecological, economical and ethical advantage that urban apartment dwellers have over the suburbanites in their single-family homes, leaking heat through every outside wall and window and driving around the streets on their riding mowers in a vain search for a decent loaf of bread, a good French film and a bookstore open after 9 o’clock.

You and your neighbors virtuously insulate one another’s apartments. In an era of global warming, such prudent use of energy is both ethically and economically sound.
(15 April 2009)

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