Thursday, November 29, 2007

Energy savings lost to 'efficiency paradox'

I heard an interesting interview on CBC this morning with Shawn McCarhty, a Global Energy Reporter with the Globe and Mail. The story was called "Energy savings lost to 'efficiency paradox'. The bottom line is this: we've made almost everything more efficient (cars, furances, A/C, etc) but these gains are offset by increased consumption (driving farther, bigger houses, etc...).

I encourage you to have a read, and think about your own consumption. Have you ever consumed more because it didn't use use as much? I'm I'm guilty of that myself.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Human Adaptation

A co-worker of mine is leaving to go work in the government, and I promised him I would bring in a music album for him to listen to, but it meant I had to run upstairs, boot the computer, and copy it to my thumb drive, when I should have been leaving to catch the bus. My wife suggested I drive to work so that I didn't have to rush. Fair enough.

So I drove to work today for the first time in about 3 weeks, and its the funniest thing; I didn't enjoy it. I actually found myself longing for a seat on the 95. Over the past 3 weeks I've spent every morning with a good book, and some new and interesting music on my iPod, and I missed it.

Instead, I was faced with stop and go traffic, idiots on the road, construction and all of the internal rage that I remember feeling every day I drove. I can tell you that I'm not looking forward to the drive home. This just adds fuel to the fire. Now when someone asks me why I take the bus, I can tell them:
1. I'm trying my best to be green.
2. I don't want to deal with the idiots on the road.

The primary arguments people use for not taking the bus is time and convenience. It takes too much time to get to where I'm going. Its not convenient for me. It begs the question: What do you do with all of the time you save by driving? Watch t.v? Gotta rush home to catch the latest episode of Big Brother 100? People always complain that they never have time to themselves, they're always rushing. My advice is to slow down! Take the bus. You'll pollute less, and also lower your blood pressure.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My inspiration...

I thought I'd post a link to the book that gave me the inspiration to try and live differently. Its called The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler. It basically describes how dire a situation we're in now that we've passed peak oil production (we will begin to produce less oil on a daily basis from this point going forward). This has significant implications for a world with an insatiable appetite for oil. He basically argues a bunch of things:

1. There is no other energy source that can provide the amount of energy required to keep our world operating like it is today.

2. The world is going to change drastically, well before the oil runs out.

I'll probably post a couple of key things I learned from reading the book, but for now I have to go and catch the bus. Its worth the read...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bullfrog Power

About 6 weeks ago I made the switch to Green electricity by enrolling with Bullfrog Power (

Semantics aside, the electricity consumed by our house-hold now comes from 100% renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro-electric dams.

It works like this, Bullfrog feeds back into the electrical grid, the same amount of electricity consumed by Bullfrog customers. By doing so, we collectively reduce the burden on Ontario's coal and nuclear power plants and reducing harmful emissions.

Of course there is a cost :-) Instead of paying 5.3 cents per kilowatt hour, I pay 9.1 cents. When I tell people this, they freak out because they think their energy costs are going to double, but what most people don't understand is that distribution costs make up the majority of your electricity bill not your actual energy consumption. Bullfrog says it costs only $1/day more, but based on my monthly electricity usage, its actually a little less. I consume an average of 18kwh of electricity per day. At that rate, switching to Bullfrog costs me an extra 66.6 cents/day or a whopping $240/year!

Not on that, but they have a super cool feature that lets you graph your consumption. This is a graph of my actual consumption for the last 3 years. I'm spotting an upward trend here - I'm trying to figure out why this is the case!

Aside from feeling good, switching to Bullfrog has many positive outcomes:

- We reduce our dependency on coal and nuclear sources of energy.
- We take the strain off the province's maximized electricity grid.
- We reduce the need to build additional coal and nuclear plants.
- We send a message to the energy companies that we want a green alternative.

I recall reading in the newspaper a few months ago about the argument against building wind farms off the coast of eastern Canada because people felt it would ruin the view. People didn't want to see wind turbines spinning out in the middle of the ocean as they look out from shore.

Its funny, people don't seem to feel the same way towards gas stations that clutter our towns everywhere you look.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

My new car!

The title of the post may seem a little odd, given the name of the blog - but my new car... is actually a big red BUS.

My wife and I (mostly me) decided we could get by with one car. Its 52km round trip for me to drive by car (over 12,000km/year). It is 14km round trip for her. With the exception of our work commute, we almost always have one car sitting unused in the driveway.

Her car is about 9 years old, and is at the point where she can probably still get a reasonable price if we sold it. We'll use that money to pay off some wedding debt we accumulated last year after getting married. It also means we don't have to pay for insurance, maintenance or gas for two cars. In exchange, it costs me about $75/month to ride the bus.

Ironically, my wife's hesitation to the change stemmed from the fact that she felt bad that I had to take the bus. She tried to convince me to take the car and drop her at work -- she could then run home. I think she understands now, that its not an inconvenience for me - and that I find it quite enjoyable. I've dusted off my iPod loaded with music I never listened to before, and I'm getting caught up on my reading (even if I have to stand). And that is just the beginning...

The stigma attached to riding the bus is unbelievable. Whenever I tell people my decision to switch, they don't really understand it. A lot of people perceive it as dirty, and full of stinky, sweaty people that only come out at night (or when the local carnival is in town), but its not true. On any given day you may sit beside a University Professor, or a Doctor or any other "professional" you can think of.

For the nay sayers... no - it is not as convenient as driving - especially when you have errands to run. The key is to plan in advance and I'm finding ways to work with the system. For instance, the bus from Kanata stops at Bayshore Shopping Center. If I need anything (clothes, booze, stereo equipment, a few groceries), I can buy them there and jump on the next bus going by.

Bottom line... taking the bus can be enjoyable and rewarding if you can plan a little bit in advance. Take the little extra time it takes to read a book, or listen to some music, or just sit and reflect on life. And it transcends social classes more than people think...

Thursday, July 5, 2007

First Post...

This is the first post in my new "green" blog. I'll do my best to keep it updated regularly.