Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Carbon Map of U.S. Skewed By Geek's House

A bunch of scientists at Purdue university have produced an updated map of U.S. carbon emissions. As you can see from the red blotches, densely populated areas generally produce a lot of pollution, with the east coast emitting more than its fair share. What's surprising is that one of the largest blotches of carbon pollution appears to be blooming directly from my own home.

How do I know for sure that my house is to blame for all that carbon? Well, I knew it for sure in January, when I opened my gas bill and saw that I owed more than $250. < highpitchedscream > What?????? < /highpitchedscream >. And then I knew it again in February. Keep in mind that my winter thermostat is set at 62 while I'm awake and 58 when I'm asleep. That's not too warm, folks. I can't go any colder without endangering my pets.

I'm a quasi-environmentalist! I have a green-colored blog! How can I have $250 energy bills?

The answer to that question is both complicated AND annoying. First of all, the price of natural gas is really high right now. As I am not an energy trader, there's nothing I can do about that except to reduce my consumption. And since I refuse to turn the thermostat any lower, that means plugging leaks. Here is a short list of all the drafts I found in my home:

  • Windows: Lead paint-sealed-shut ancient in some cases. They do have storm windows, but they aren't helping much.
  • Electrical sockets: I could feel cold air blowing on my hand through the little holes.
  • Doors: Weatherstripping is worn away or missing. Letter slot is uninsulated.
  • Ductwork: Duct in unheated garage is leaking hot air and the insulation is ripped and falling apart.
  • Walls: Cold to the touch, possibly indicating that they lack sufficient insulation
That right there is a lot for a less-than-handyman with limited funds to tackle, but I'm trying. Stay tuned for updates on my progress. And yes, some progress has been made. But not much.

BTW: You can view the real carbon map here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Philly Cleanup a Sparkling Success

If there's one thing I hate, it's people who disrespect their own community and chuck their refuse on the ground. This goes for everyone from the mom who tosses her Macdonald's bag out of her car window to the lawyer who drops his cigarette butt onto the sidewalk as he enters his office building. (How come if you're a smoker, the world is your ashtray? Can someone explain that to me?) Bottom line: litter sucks. It turns cities into garbage dumps, hurts tourism, lowers property values and encourages crime. It damages the human environment, which just happens to be the one in which we all have to live.

That's why this past weekend I was happy to participate in Philly Cleanup, a one-day city program promoted by Mayor Michael Nutter to pick up some of the litter and trash across Philadelphia. On Saturday morning, I headed out with a group of my coworkers at Philadelphia Tourism to beautiful FDR park in South Philly, where volunteers handed out gloves, rakes and trash bags. We were given a tough assignment, which was to walk over to the skatepark under Interstate 95 and clean up some of the trash. And boy was there ever trash to clean. Thousands of plastic bags chucked from car windows. Hundreds of bottles and cans chucked by kids. Car tires. Candy wrappers. Newspapers. A real mess. I even found a parking meter that had been liberated and cut in half for whatever coins it once held. But no decayed bodies--thank Jeebus.

When we first got to the area, I thought we wouldn't even make a dent. I was wrong. Even though there were only nine hardy souls in our group, we managed to pick up at least ten large bags of trash and recyclables. Within a couple of hours, the place actually looked decent (for a skatepark underneath an interstate highway). We even saw a living creature in the sea of detritus--a little snake curled up in the sun. He seemed happy to see us cleaning up his home.

Thank you Mayor Nutter, for showing us what we could accomplish with a little elbow grease and a few hours of our time. Let's keep this going and have another cleanup day in the summer and then every warm season after that. I'll show up and I bet a whole bunch of my fellow citizens will as well. It's time to clean up Philadelphia's act for good! Huzzah!

**Thanks to Rawle for the photos.