Saturday, January 31, 2009

E-cycle Mania in Cville's Rio Hill Parking Lot!

Betty brings you coverage of an amazing event held today, January 31, from 9-3pm in the parking lot of Crutchfield. Papa Johns, UVA, the city, the county, CCDC, RSWA, Crutchfield, (who am I forgetting), Z95 and 1061 the Corner, Betty - everyone came out to help this event be a tremendous success. Bruce Edmonds of RSWA, Teri Kent of Better World Betty, along with UVA recycling crew and the Crutchfield crew are shown. Thanks to everyone's hard work today! Today, you brought it and we hauled it into boxes, onto pallets to be be shrink-wrapped and placed into the trailers!

It feels a little strange to call this a "success" when gazing out at the sea of electronics piled one upon the other 3 feet high and yards and yards long, an entire trailer-tractor truck filled, the other half-filled (with still three hours to go!), and computers, monitors, cartridges, keyboards, batteries, old phones, vcrs as far as the eye could see. Idling cars backed up all the way onto Rt. 29. Were they being sent off to the land of Forgotten Electronics? Were they going to a charity (one man asked me)? (I sent him to Betty's website where he will find the phone and location of Computers4kids to see if they would accept his comupter)

But success it was!

I don't know the numbers yet, but two tractor-trailers hauling over 400 tons each were not going to be adequate is what I overheard from the crew.

Recycling old electronics for reuse, repair, refurbishing and proper disposal is the absolute right thing to do, so thanks to everyone who came out! Pat yourself on the back because you ensured that hazardous waste and materials used in electronics (the list is long and varied: cadmium, lead, mercury, flame retardants, PCB, PVC, glues) will go to its proper burial place or find new life.

Crutchfield and their recycling provider will drive the e-tons (Can't wait to get the numbers on this one) to New Jersey to be refurbished, repaired, or dismantled for reuse, and the rest; well, this Betty doesn't want to think about that one. It was amazing to see all that waste in one place. "Incredible," said one. "Look at all these humans doing the right thing!" said another.

Humans consume, that's a fact. We like our electronics, that's a fact. For me it keeps me connected to you. But I believe we also feel good when we clean up a mess and do that right thing. That's what today was about.

For more information on e-cycling check:

Remember, if you don't know where to take something, try Betty's Recycling, Reducing, Reusing Search Tool. (I had a hard time loading old printer cartridges into bins almost as tall as I am knowing that most area schools (and Virginia Organizing Project) accept them and redeems them for MONEY which goes back to the schools.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Getting there...

If you haven't read lately, January's focus for saving energy in my home has been to seal any and all cracks and hang insulated drapes before I turn the corner into February where I will be researching/purchasing/installing more insulation for the attic. In the above photo I've shown a couple new bulbs I bought for a new floor lamp, the rope caulk I talked about in an earlier blog, V-seal, and an example of a eco-friendly window treatment choice (which will be backed with an insulating layer) from

I can't believe there are only four days left in January and I STILL don't have the drapes ordered for our bedroom and our living room. Seems I had no trouble purchasing some funky transparent kind from a local vendor that will save
.00000000001% of our home energy costs.

On the brighter side though, the downstairs drapes are up and the rope caulk I've used around our leaky windows is working pretty well, not great (I've had to repinch a couple times already). I also had my favorite handyman Joe Noonan repair our stovetop vent that was letting the outside air into the kitchen (he had to replace the spring on the outside vent) and he reinforced the duct work below the stove. (He also replaced our broken mailbox and, of course, told him - Don't you dare throw the old one away!! My friend will be using it for the kids' outside fort)

This stuff may sound like pittance in the big scheme, but guess what? And I'm quoting my husband who is quoting his mother here) "By the mile it's a trial, by the yard it's hard, but by the inch, it's a cinch." Do what you can, when you can, especially in these times.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Clouds in my coffee...

Do you have a few hours to shop for your groceries this week?

That's what it might feel like you are going to need if you are picking out two of our favorite vices: coffee and chocolate. Wow!! Have you seen the ever-growing aisle of chocolate bars in the stores lately: Newman's Own, Endangered Species brand chocolate, Lindt, some organic, some fair trade, some none of the above. There is even a brand: "Climate Change Chocolate" (which I do not recommend FYI) The same goes for coffee.

Meanwhile coffee and chocolate market watchers report low wages, child labor, deforestation, and pesticide use. Not exactly what you had in mind to enjoy with you nice cup a joe or chocolate treat, right? Here's my best effort at BWB discernment.

Fact: all of our chocolate comes from abroad. I guess that why I bought "Climate Change Chocolate" curious about how I can buy chocolate with consideration of 1- its ecological impact (I LOVE the stuff) 2- its treatment of farmers. It turns out the only climate-friendly thing about this brand is that it offers green tips on the wrapper and offsets its carbon emissions.

Fact: Hawaii is the only state in the US that grows/farms coffee. So bottom line, you cannot get "local" coffee. You CAN get coffee that has been ROASTED here in Virginia, though. Shenandoah Joe's has a roaster in Lexington and you can buy that, along with Righteous Bean, which is roasted in Ruckersville, VA at most stores. I like Righteous Bean because it's fair trade and organic (but to be perfectly honest I don't drink anything but decaf and not that often- if you know me, you know I'm naturally caffeinated). In talking with Joe at the Whole Foods coffee counter, we both agreed that it's probably best to stay away from Sumatra or Indonesian varieties until they come on board with certification. At Whole Foods they sell Allegro brand coffees and the locally roasted brands in big bins - scoop it into a compostable bag and then grind it with their machine. Tres convenient.

Upon investigation Organic vs Fair Trade has its set of complexities. Reviews of organic farms have not always come up smelling of rosy labor practices and fair wages. Of course we don't want child or slave labor in order to have our chocolate or our coffee.

So I would urge you to purchase both with the Fair Trade certification label.

Need further convincing: this from "It's estimated that fair-trade chocolate represents less than 1 percent of the world's roughly $60 billion chocolate market. But the more people like you who buy it, the better things will get for cocoa farmers, we hope. So keep on looking for Fair Trade Certified or Fair Trade Federation labels."

Hope that helps!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Greening your home office...

This article appears in this month's issue of Abode magazine. Check it out in the stands or at Resolve to turn your home office a shade greener this year with Better World Betty‘s help. The obvious green choices (installing CFLs or LEDs (expensive, but a write-off) or lowering and raising the thermostat) will cut energy costs, but what else?

Closing the office loop.

40% of municipal waste is still paper, so recycle and purchase only 100% post-consumer recycled content paper (available from Kinko‘s or Bailey‘s Printing if you outsource printing).

Why pay top dollar for new items when you can use UVA’s ROSE (recycled office supply exchange), Freecycle, or Craigs List, like Charlottesville resident Louisa Wimberger recently did for her home office. Recycling envelops, using a return address stamp instead of labels, and double-sided printing save green as well.

Did you know laptops use 50-90% less energy than desktops? Sleep mode (found in the power options or power management control panel) is a must. But don’t use screensavers; they gobble the monitor’s full power. Eric Gilchrist, head of Charlottesville Design Center’s SPARK! energy-saving program, suggests a power strip to shut everything down at the end of the day. This eliminates any phantom energy use (the small amount of energy used when things are plugged in).

Beyond your office, become an advocate, “Bug the companies you work with to offer greener products,” says Wimberger. And if you’re a true green office, include a conservation plug: “Think twice before printing this” or “Go green…read from the screen!”

Last thing: don’t forget to save old office items for local schools or charities. Your old ink-jet cartridges actually earn money for schools.

Check out for more green office ideas.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Eliminate the Losers in Your Home!

January: Sealing the Cracks and Purchasing Window Coverings

Before your husband takes offense at the title of this blog, tell him to hear you out! You're not talking about him, but about the most common "losers" of energy in your home brought to you from yours truly. Because my personal plan for this year, with Betty's help, is to increase the energy efficiency in our home and to elimate the losers! This is the first in a series of blogs, which will appear in the first week of each month in '09 regarding home energy use. Hints, thoughts, strategies for solutions. Of course, the first place to start, Betty's events page because CCDC and Spark! have some great Energy Saving ideas and programs going on, especially this month.

Here is a nice breakdown of Home Energy Use, from my latest Mother Earth Mag:

44% heating and cooling
33% lighting/cooking appliances/plug ins
14% water heating
9% fridge

Step one in this process for me:

Eliminate the things I CANNOT fix, change what I can, hire out what I can't, and have the wisdom to know the difference (I think I read that somewhere :-).

*Windows: Here we need a stop gap measure because, as you may know already, windows are probably the most expensive thing to replace in your home, especially the ones I want (certified wood, low-e, etc). Our windows are TERRIBLE - not the windows themselves but the surrounding frames. There are gaps. Air is flowing. Not good. So this will have to be done piecemeal.

*Big-Ass (sorry about my language) Fridge: Two years ago My husband and I replaced our two small fridges (turns out nearly 20% of Americans have two fridges), for one big-ass (excuse my language), energy-star rating one. The only thing to do there is to keep it at 40 degrees and push it away from the wall once or twice a year to get rid of the dust bunnies, making sure it runs as efficiently as possible.

*Lighting: We've already replaced all lights with CFL bulbs. On the whole I am happy with them; however I have had TWO burn out within a year (so I have to cart those to McIntire Recycling on account of the trace amount of mercury in them). I hope that is not a trend

*Old appliances: Unfortunately we inherited a very inefficient washer/dryer here, so we are due. I will focus on that in March. In the meantime, I use Nellie's dryer balls in winter, planning a nifty clothesline production in our screened in porch for April, let rugs and sweater air dry on counters and banisters. We have NO plugged in appliances on the kitchen counter, thereby eliminating "phantom loads:" the small amount of energy drawn from appliances that remain plugged in. Cell phone users: don't leave your charger plugged into the wall, Betty humbly pleaded.

*Owning a home that is bigger than we need: Though we are four people and three pets, and my husband requires elbow room (he came from a family of 15 kids in a four-bedroom home - but that's a whole nother blog/website), we could do with a smaller home, but it would be futile to try to sell in this market. So will do what we can to our current home, given the current recession, and save money and help reduce our emissions while we're at it (besides, it's excellent blog fodder).

*Water heating: I have insulated my water heater. Also I wash ALL clothes on the cold water setting. I have two young boys (equal grass stained knees) and I can get clothes clean, no worries. (Make sure your water heater is set no higher than 120 degrees). Limit showers to 3-5 minutes. But if you want to take a big step this year, consider a solar hot water heater, which would elminiate 2.5 tons of CO2 emissions per year AND pay for itself (quoting National Geographic's True Green book guide here) within 5 years. I will be opting NOT to do that this year, instead prioritzing the big energy loser in our home: windows will top the list.

*Which brings me to heating and cooling. A hurdle for us on this our living room has a high ceiling. That's an energy drain. Short of building a mid-air loft, which would be fun for my sons (they could hang a rope and Indiana Jones there way to a more energy efficient living space), it's staying.

Currently, we keep the thermostat at 60-62 degrees. Needless to say, we wear sweaters. [note: I put off getting a programmable thermostat because I hear conflicting reports about moving around the thermostat. Unless you are moving it 10 degrees, you don't need one. Hmmm. It would still be nice to have automatic temperature change capability. The city offers a rebate for this up to $100.00 (check the green city page of the Charlottesville website)].

But the other thing you can do to help with heating and cooling is to SEAL YOUR HOME of all cracks and leaks. Sounds like a good start to me, so this week...

Feeling all empowered, I headed to the local hardware store (Martin's on Preston is my favorite) and bought V-seal for the doors and Rope Caulk for the windows as an excellent stop gap for window leaks. I haven't gone Bob Vila on them yet, but I can't wait to this weekend! (I'll take some pictures for you). The word on the green street is that you can use this handy dandy stuff on your windows to seal cracks (sealing the envelop of your home is tres important!) and it WON'T dry up and harden, so that I can then remove it in the spring and fall (and some summer evenings) to open my windows to cool and even REUSE it next winter.

Another 14% savings can be gained from installing blinds/lined drapes, so after hemming and hawing for years, I happily ordered some lined, natural woven blinds from Smith+Noble made from sustainable materials (bamboos, reeds, and grasses) and some organic cotton drapes from the same company. (Sadly I could not find any local vendors selling eco-friendly window covering solutions)

Good luck eliminating the losers in your home!
Best, BWB

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A New Year

So I more than survived last year's no buying pledge* - I really found lots of lessons and joy in it. A few of the lessons, which may inspire you and yours:

*It's ok to fail - you still learn.
*The need for occasional retail therapy can be examined and quelled by a cup of tea with a friend or a sweet find at Glad Rags or Natalie Dressed.
*Having young children brings a natural expansion to your lives, which does include an occasional transformer or object of heart-felt desire: like a shiny, new guitar and that's O.K.
*Peace, freedom, contentment within life seem more accessible on a daily basis without the barrage of catalogs, advertisements, magazine covers (knowing that I wasn't going to buy something was very freeing)
*It's nearly impossible to visit a place and NOT want to bring back an object, a memento to celebrate and remind you of that place. (Attachment vs Non-attachment is a centuries old challenge of the human condition)
*Sometimes perfection is the enemy of good. (Which is why Betty is BETTER World Betty and NOT PERFECT World Pollyanna)
*There is tremendous value when you set an intention and a framework (a time period) and then try and see what happens.
*It's true that I really don't need that (insert desired, trendy, overpriced item here) after all!

Many of my friends and family have asked, "Now what? Are you going to go on a big spending spree?" The temptation is there of course, but the answer is "No." But I'm not going to continue the pledge. At least for now. I trust that my lessons and mindfulness will carry into the New Year. This year my focus will be Energy Efficiency in my home. Stay tuned for the upcoming chronicle of my strategies, costs, thought process as I navigate this next step.

Welcome to the New Year,

November: cool new calendar book at Quest bookshop
December: new art book for Dad