My water, not our water

Sign describing well water is used for irrigation

During my bicycle ride to work, I pass by a large cemetery with vast green expanses of lawn spread out among scattered memorial benches. (They have a rule against vertical tombstones.)

And they use their own well water to keep the grass a healthy and tranquil green.

But isn’t that water drawn from the same aquifer that surrounding neighborhoods use?

Apparently, when you use your own well water, you can water at the peak of sunshine exposure, when evaporation is at its highest. And you can water however many days a week you like.

Even worse, one neighborhood I ride through irrigates grass along the edges of their roads seven days a week.

The rest of us in suburbia are limited by Denver water authorities to three days a week and no watering between 10 am and 6 pm.

I’m not jealous of this extravagant use of water. But I find it interesting that these rules apply to only one set of users.

Life is always like that — one set of rules for one group and another set for another group — unlimited access to resources for one group and very limited access for another group.

You and I need to just accept this and ride on.


Delete those photos

I love taking photos with my iPhone. It’s easy, fast and fun to grab quick pix that will remind me of enjoyable days or quirky stuff I see in this wild world.

a totally covered Toyota Land Cruiser But there is a downside — server farms. When people take six photos of something they only really need one of — and store them on the cloud — that’s six times more square footage of server farm needed. And six times more electricity needed to keep them there forever. And six times more hard drives that need to be bought by Amazon, Google or Apple.

So you — please delete those poor quality photos.

Just so that you know I am practicing what I preach, the above photo of a server farm is not hosted on my website. It’s hosted on another website. The article has interesting info that I never knew. (Thanks, Tek-Think. I did click on one of your Google ads as a way of saying that I appreciate the use of your photo.)


And for the really geeky tech people out there, I do know that those crappy photos are probably backed up forever, even if someone deletes them. But if they aren’t uploaded to the cloud before they’re deleted, we’re making some progress.

Also, geeky people, I know that it’s probably not a direct increase of six for 5 additional photos — but you get the idea.


And we wonder why the sky is brown

emissionsI had a shocking realization the other day. I took our 12-year old Honda minivan in for an emissions test. (It’s required by law.)

The family transport vehicle (aka, “living room on wheels”) passed with flying colors. In fact, the margin between what was acceptable and what it produced was huge. And that’s with a relatively large engine — 3.5 liters that produces 240 horsepower.

Here are the results:

  • Hydrocarbons — just 2% of the fail amount
  • Carbon Monoxide — just under 3% of the fail amount
  • Nitrogen oxides — 28% of the fail amount

Obviously, the Colorado government needs to tighten its standards. Methinks the law makers have a bunch of weekend 1960s American cars with no emissions controls installed at all.


Citizens’ Initiatives

dog poop bag dispenser

Our neighborhood has a few walking paths. And we walk along them, from time to time.

A very kind citizen put this “add a used newspaper or grocery bag dispenser for dog poop” dispenser along the trail.


The local parks authority provides their own dispensers, but they have to spend labor hours, the costs of special poop bags and create pollution by a small pickup truck going along the trails to refill the dispensers.

It’s so much better for ordinary people to add their used grocery or newspaper bags to these simple-to-build dispensers!


Great thinking

double-sided-receiptSprouts, a health-oriented supermarket with stores near us, has a great idea… double-sided receipts! I’m not referring to the kind with advertising on the back. These have purchase information carried onto the formerly blank side.

This will effectively save about twice as much paper as regular receipts. Yes, there is an infrastructure cost — registers that can print tape on both sides are probably more expensive than those that print only on one side. But that cost will eventually be made up. Or not. Even if it costs more money in the long run, that’s a nice investment in the health of our planet.

If you want to find your nearest Sprouts, click here.


Artisan lip balm and whiskey

Burt's BeesBurt’s Bees was sold to Clorox. Small distilleries may be selling you whiskey that was mostly made in a giant factory.

You already know that all is not as it seems. But we are susceptible to good marketing.

The Denver Post reported on September 28th that many craft distilleries are using whiskey that is made in giant factories.  It may be a little disappointing to someone who spends $65 for a bottle of “hand-crafted spirits” to find out that they have bought something made in a massive factory.

People with chapped lips wanting something better than Chapstick have turned to Burt’s Bees for a long time. They have (and do) buy that brand because of its more natural ingredients and the company’s environmental responsibility. But did you know that Burt’s Bees was bought by Clorox in 2007? That’s probably not surprising to you. But we still like the idea that our purchase will be healthier and more responsible than something we buy from a big corporate global manufacturer. We also like the idea that our product is made in a small facility by local humans, rather than on some anonymous assembly line.

The only way to truly buy local and artisan may be to visit the factory to see how they make what you want to buy. And be prepared to pay double (or more) than what the national brand might cost.

Healthy and responsible is not cheap.


One way to save millions of dollars

ford-lotAbout once a week for about a year, I rode my bicycle past this completely full car lot. All these cars cannot even be seen by the public from the dealership’s already ample lot. This is an overflow lot on a side street.

There are two reasons why this dealership has about $3,000,000 worth of trucks and cars constantly sitting in that lot: 1) They want buyers to be able to buy a purple model with or without a sunroof today and not go to another dealership; and 2) Ford essentially requires them to keep that much inventory through various arcane regulations.

Europe is not that way. You may have to schedule an appointment three days in advance to test drive the car you are considering. But that’s the system, and people are used to it.

One system is built upon instant gratification. The other system is built on high real estate values.

All I know is that this kind of American excess breaks my heart.

I took about 20 photos of this lot under various lighting conditions. Maybe someday I’ll create wallpaper or something with those pictures.


Save some energy

IKEA bulbYou should switch bulbs. If you are using incandescent light bulbs in your house, it’s worth your time and energy to switch them over to LED bulbs.

IKEA has a basic bulb that costs just $4.49.* It puts out a little less light than a 60 watt bulb, so it’s not the solution to all your lighting needs. But it will work in many applications.

Some complain that the color temperature of LED bulbs is not as warm or natural as that of incandescent bulbs. In reality, LED bulbs are available with outputs across the color spectrum. You may have to pay more — the IKEA bulb I’m trying to get you to buy is available in just one temperature.

The biggest reason to switch is that you will save a lot of energy. LED bulbs use about 85% less energy than similar incandescents. A second reason is that changing bulbs will become a distant memory. LED bulbs often last 10 years or more.

If $4.49 per bulb adds up to a big expense for your whole house, just buy one at a time. You can switch out all your bulbs over the course of a few years.

Enjoy a lower energy bill starting right away!

* UK residents — the equivalent bulb costs £7. Alas.


Easy and clean

car tailpipeIt’s very easy — and clean — to turn off your vehicle when you’re parked.

If you do not let your vehicle’s engine idle when you are parked, you will win for all these reasons:

- Your engine will last longer.

- You won’t send pollution into the lungs of the bicycle rider or pedestrian who might be near.

- You will save money.

- You will prevent the environmental impact of transporting that extra fuel to your local gas station.

If you want to run your vehicle’s heater or air conditioner, consider instead going into the nearest building. It will probably be climate controlled. Your friend can meet you there.


Sadness about competition

Curbside trasn canThere are too many trash companies in Denver. In the old days, the city would have picked up our trash. These days, there are about ten companies to choose from. The upside is that it keeps the cost down for those who have to pay for the service, such as myself. But there are many downsides:

- There is way more needed infrastructure. Every company needs its own fleet of trucks. Every company needs their own offices.

- There is way more pollution. Each of the ten trash companies that makes a pass through my neighborhood has ten trucks that drive by each week. There used to be one.

- There are five days of noise, rather than one.

- There are cans at the curb five days a week, rather than one.

- “Having so many trash companies provides more jobs.” That is true in the same way that having ten people on a road crew so that six can stand by and watch four work provides more jobs.

We changed trash services recently over two issues, even though we had used the same company for at least five years:

1. We care for humans. Our old company did not have trucks that could empty the cans; the guys had to lift them up to empty them. I always felt bad for their backs. So now, at least there is one less set of cans for them to empty.

2. Price. Yes, we are paying less now — due to competition.

Finally, please understand that I am not saying competition is bad in every case. It’s just bad in this case and situations similar to this.