|The Green RVer|
A Monthly Feature By Bob Difley
Each month the Green RVer will offer tips on how we RVers can assist Mother Earth in her struggles by making environmentally responsible decisions, following effective conservation practices, and reducing our contribution to greenhouse gasses. We will also examine ways in which we can continue to enjoy our great outdoor RV lifestyle in a responsible manner, leaving a minimal impact on the earth. If you have news and information related to Green RVing email Bob Difley
directly at [email protected]
To read the Green RVer introduction article which appeared in the June 2007 issue of Western RV News & Recreation go to the bottom of this page.
|TIP OF THE MONTH - OCTOBER 2008|
September, 28 2008
Gasing The RV At The Pump
Driving Tip: Tear Off That "Fueled by Testosterone" Bumper Sticker
By Bob Difley
We may not want to accept the idea that our days of conspicuous consumption that defined the 90s are no longer the accoutrements of success. Owning the biggest house or the most expensive motorhome, driving a Hummer, vacationing in Cannes and flying in New York cheese cake and lobsters from Maine for a lavish party are not cool any more. What is cool is downscaling your home size and paying off the mortgage, buying a smaller fuel-efficient RV, driving a Prius, vacationing in state and national parks, and eating locally grown foods.
It is also cool to reduce your carbon footprint, decrease your contribution to global warming, and save money. One way we can save money, and in the process reduce our carbon footprint as well as decrease our contribution to global warming, is to develop a new or modified set of driving habits.
First, remove your 'Fueled by Testosterone' and 'Sit Down, Shut Up, and Hang On' bumper stickers.
Don't Put Your Dollars To The Gas Tank
Next, close your eyes (unless you're driving) and softly repeat 'hmmm' in a continuing, dull monotone. This will put you into a Zen frame of mind, one that will slow your heartbeat, relax your karma, and reduce your stress quotient so that you are ready for the next, and most difficult step.
Are you ready? OK. Now, remaining completely relaxed, slowly reduce the pressure of your right foot on the accelerator pedal of your rig, allowing the pedal to ease toward the neutral point. When the gauge called a 'speedometer' on your dash slips back from 70 mph to 55 mph, you will be on the yellow brick road to fuel savings'maybe as much as 20% say experts.
That was easy. Now let's try another device to save fuel costs. This one is called the Obama Factor. Take one of those tire gauge devices handed out to the press after Barack's discussion of tire pressures and use it to read the pressure in your tires'all of them, not just the ones easiest to get to. The EPA says that a 1% loss of fuel efficiency occurs for every 2 PSI of air under the amount stamped on the tire's sidewall. In a study by Carnegie Mellon students, cars on campus averaged 20% below the suggested tire pressures. If you crunch the numbers, using an average of 22.3 mpg and 12,242 miles per year (their numbers) the average driver would use 144 extra gallons of gas a year at $4/gallon or $576! I'll bet you could think of something better to do with that money than give it to an oil company.
Now that we're on a roll, here are a few more tips that might return some oil-destined coins to your pockets.
' Use kinetic energy to your advantage. Once your lumbering rig is put into motion, use as little energy as possible to keep it in motion, avoiding flooring it to go up small hills or to change lanes, for example. When stopping is required, analyze the situation (stop light, stop sign, turtle crossing road) and ease your foot off the accelerator pedal and allow the vehicle to coast to a slower speed, rather than roaring up to the light or slowing traffic, then stomping down on the brake pedal. Every time you put your foot on the brake you are wasting the gasoline'and the kinetic energy--that you used to get your rig up to speed.
' Save your heavy foot for kicking a soccer ball. Accelerate moderately to highway speeds, avoiding drag strip type starts that suck fuel like a vacuum cleaner sucks up dust bunnies.
' Put your rig on a diet. Hauling around your collection of left-handed screwdrivers, two spare bowling balls, and your grand piano makes your rig work harder to move all that stuff down the highway. If you are not dry camping, empty about three quarters of your water tank and use the campground's water supply.
' A headwind will not only make you feel like you are driving with the brakes on, but will also cause you to burn more fuel. So turn around, and drive to a downwind campground. Ok, so that's a bit extreme. But if you slow down when going into a headwind you will conserve fuel, then you can speed up a bit when the wind swings around behind you, pushing you along like a sailboat with its spinnaker flying.
And think of this fact also, for every gallon of gasoline consumed, 20.8 pounds of global warming carbon dioxide emissions spew into the air. So when you save fuel, you are saving the planet as well. A win-win scenario.
|TIP OF THE MONTH - SEPTEMBER 2008|
September, 1 2008
Nutrition Facts Labels
Making Sense of Food Labels and Claims
By Bob Difley
How many of us are old enough to remember going to the neighborhood baker for a loaf of bread, the butcher for pork chops and a bone for Fido, and the neighborhood green grocer for fresh fruits and vegetables'none of which came in a package? You went to the grocery store to buy stuff in bottles and boxes. The fishmonger sold us fresh fish from his cart and the milk man delivered milk, butter, and eggs right to our doorstep. We knew these people. They were our friends and neighbors and we were confident in the healthy foods they brought us.
With today's industrial farms and suppliers, we can no longer rely on the integrity of local farmers, or on what is being added to the foods we buy, how it is grown, raised, or processed. As automobiles became a way of life, the weekly shopping trip to the supermarket enabled us to buy everything we wanted and needed all at one stop'bread, meat, fish, vegetables, milk, ice cream, aspirin, panty-hose, canopeners, motor oil, and potted plants.
But life did not become simplified, rather it became complicated as we consumers became more aware of the preservatives put into our foods, hormones fed to cattle to make them fatter quicker, and trans-fats (now illegal in California, New York City, and other places) added to cookies and pastries to extend their shelf life.
Out of this came a demand for food labeling, and now Nutrition Facts Labels appear on all packaged foods, enabling us to make healthy buying decisions'if only we knew what the figures meant (see Nutrition Facts Labels). But that is not the whole picture. What we used to follow as the motto of healthy eating, "Know your farmer, know your food,' became more difficult as supermarkets had food shipped in from across country or from other countries. As we became more aware of our food choices, the meaning of terms like organic, pesticide-free, locally grown, and free range became more cloudy. So the government set up standards to which farmers had to strictly adhere, including on-site inspections, in order to label their fruit and vegetables 'organic.'
According to the Organic Trade Association, organic food production is based on a system of farming that:
' Maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers.
' Produces food without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering and other excluded practices such as the use of sewage sludge or irradiation.
' Excludes cloning of animals or the use of their products.
' Minimally processes food without using artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation to maintain the integrity of the food.
' Requires growers and handlers to be certified by third-party, state, or private agencies that are accredited by the USDA.
But since organic products (identified by the certified 'USDA 100% Organic' seal) can still come from miles away--even from other countries--requiring transportation costs using petroleum products and contributing to air pollution and global warming, there has been a movement toward local food. This trend has coined the term 'locavores' to define those who buy most of their food from farmers' markets and local area farms and ranches. These local operations are smaller than the large industrial food corporations that have displaced many small family farms across the nation. Locavores claim that the food, which is mostly organic, not only tastes better and is healthier and more nutritious, but is good for the small family farmer and an economic stimulus to the local economy.
'Free Range' is an ambiguous term that refers to livestock that is allowed to roam free of confinement. However, the USDA requirement refers only to chickens used for meat that have 'access' to the outdoors, whether or not they actually go outdoors or not. There is no USDA regulation covering the definition or label for free range beef or pork, so that label should be suspect and defined by the rancher regarding his livestock practices. The USDA, however, has established a standard definition for the "grass fed" claim which requires continuous access to pasture and prevents animals from being fed grain (corn) or grain-based products.
If you see a label other than that or the controlled and regulated Organic label, question it.
Greenwashing (overstating environment qualities or practices) exists. If the producer is local, ask questions about their practices. If not, write or check the company's practices on the internet, and if you are not comfortable with the information they make available, buy elsewhere.
Nutrition Facts Labels
These labels appear on all packaged foods enabling us to make informed food choices. Following is a brief explanation of what data the label displays and how to use this information when making buying choices.
' Serving Size ' This standardization, such as measurements by the cup, number of pieces, etc. enables you to compare similar foods.
' Calories ' The number of total calories in the stated serving size. Generally, a serving size that has 40 or fewer calories is low, 100 calories is moderate, and 400 or over is high.
' Calories from Fat ' The number of calories that come from fat (there are more calories in a gram of fat than in a gram from other calorie sources). Avoid foods with a high percentage of fat calories.
' Total Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium (salt) ' These ingredients should be limited, and can be compared between products. Look especially at Saturated Fat and Trans Fat, which should be low to be acceptable'zero Trans Fat is best.
' Total Carbohydrate' Look for a high percentage of Dietary Fiber and a low percentage of Sugars.
' Protein ' A source of protein is good, though most packaged foods will not have a lot of protein.
' % Daily Value ' You will find the percentage of your daily requirement for each of the above items in the right hand column. For instance, one yummy chocolate fudge cookie could equal almost 10% of your daily fat requirement.
' Vitamins and Minerals are shown in the bottom section and an explanation of how these values are derived (if the package is large enough to display this section). It also shows what your daily requirement should be, and by adding up these amounts on what you eat you can determine whether you are receiving your total daily requirements.
By comparing the above figures across a variety of products you will be able to make informed decisions on what you want to put into your body. For a complete description of Nutrition Facts labels, go to the US Department of Agriculture's Web page: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/foodlab.html.
|TIP OF THE MONTH - AUGUST 2008|
August, 1 2008
By boondocking one or two days a week you can cut 25% off your campground fees. And the scenery can be pretty nice too.
Conserving: How Altering Your Buying Habits Can Reduce CO2 Emissions, Energy Usage, and Waste
By Bob Difley
Many of us sailed blithely through the 60s, 70s, 80s, and even 90s on the magic carpet of cheap and abundant energy, with little thought that it might someday become a very expensive necessity, like simple food was in the collapsing Soviet Union. The thought of limited energy--the gas lines of the 70s and $5 gas--was as alien a concept as giving up our cars for public transportation or basing our RV purchase on gas mileage.
Yet here we are today with a stagnating economy, a global warming crisis, and astronomical gas prices threatening our RV lifestyle.
Farm stands provide fresh, and local fruit and vegetables, avoiding packaging and transportation.
Short of hijacking fuel transport trucks, inventing a pill that changes water into gasoline, or hitting the lottery and not giving a hoot what anything costs, are there any practical methods for stretching our tightening supply of dollars, reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, cutting our energy usage, and getting a handle on the decadent amount of waste we generate?
We can partially effect the changes necessary to reduce expenses, waste, and energy usage'and every little bit helps--by changing some of our old buying habits that have been embedded in our mental hard drive after those decades of plenty. Changing these habits can at first appear daunting, especially to those of us that are 'set in our ways.' But with a little effort, we can accomplish just the edge we need to stretch our dollars as well as be kinder to the environment.
The following buying suggestions are but a few of the possibilities:
' Choose the weekly rate instead of the daily rate at campgrounds. Stay longer in one place reducing campground fees and fuel expense, allowing you to have more time to explore the area and to make new friends.
' Go boondocking one or two days a week, paying much lower fees in National Forest Service, state park, Corps of Engineers, or Bureau of Land Management campgrounds'or no fees at all if camping in dispersed camping areas on public lands. You could cut your campground fees by 25%.
' While out exploring the local area, locate the farmers markets, farm stands, and U-pick orchards. Fruits and vegetables from these sources are fresher, taste better, avoid middle man and transportation costs, offer greater variety, and support the local farmers.
' Buy cloth bags from your favorite store or that display your favorite logo and use whenever food shopping, whether at the farmers market or the supermarket. You will find multiple other uses for the bags and you will keep hundreds of plastic bags out of landfills and from festooning trees and electric wires.
' Avoid wasting food. Twelve percent of landfills consist of food scraps. Buy only what you can eat before it spoils, freeze what you cannot use immediately, plan your meals and portions to avoid unused food, and save leftovers and reuse for lunches or casseroles. You will reduce your food bill as well as do your part to reduce the size of landfills.
' More and more stores are installing bulk food sections, where you can buy food like pasta, rice, beans, granola, dried fruit, nuts, candy, and dog food from bulk bins, avoiding not only the cost but also the disposal of packaging.
' Buy a water filter (such as the Brita) that fits on your sink faucet. A lever switches from unfiltered water to filtered drinking water. This will save you from buying expensive bottled water, as well as keep empty plastic containers out of the land fill.
' Install a gas-fired, heat exchanger, tankless water-heater from Precision Temp, Rheem, or Eemax for your hot water. Since these units produce instant hot water when you turn on the faucet--not from a constantly maintained hot water tank--you could cut your water-heating energy costs in half.
' Buy rechargeable batteries for all your iPods, flashlights, Walkmans, book reading lights, and everything else that takes AAA, AA, C, or D size batteries. You can recharge a Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery 1,000 times before it gives up the ghost.
' Reduce the size of your tow vehicle to a gas-miserly Honda Civic, a hybrid, or similar high mileage car. Do all your exploring with the toad, instead of the RV and save gallons of fuel.
' Buy quality, long-lasting products instead of cheap disposable ones. Repair damaged products rather than dispose of into landfills.
Add your own ideas to this list. You will be surprised how the pennies saved and trash avoided adds up. And if you have any unusual or unique ideas, email me at: [email protected] I would love to add them to my list.
|People Power: Peddling, Paddling, and Perambulating for Energy Conservation, Saving Money,|
August, 1 2008
Paddling is not only excellent upper body exercise, but it enables access into places otherwise inaccessible.
By Bob Difley
The absolute best way to save money on fuel, avoid spewing greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, and save wear and tear on your vehicle is to not drive. We can't very well get to campgrounds by not driving our RV, but after we get there we can try to reduce the driving we do in our tow or toad. This does not mean that we have to hike ten miles to the market for a jar of peanut butter, but we could walk to and from the shower building, ride bicycles for supplies within reasonable distances, and for exploring within a radius that is comfortable'maybe five to ten miles.
Yes, it will take longer than driving, but what's your hurry. Relax. Take a leisurely, enjoyable walk or ride. The benefits are many:
' Bicycling and walking are excellent forms of exercise, getting your blood flowing, working the kinks out of your muscles, loosening up your limbs and joints, and improving cardio-vascular conditioning.
' If you have a canoe or kayak, paddling is great conditioning for the shoulders and upper body.
Peddling instead of driving can reduce your fuel costs and provides an excellent source of fun exercise.
If you are camped by a river, lake, or bay, you can explore places by paddling that you might not be able to reach any other way.
' Hiking away from campgrounds and settled areas into wilderness areas or through the woods soon leaves the crowds behind and provides all the health benefits associated with moving the body and getting the heart pumping as well as the possibilities of seeing wildlife.
' Once you condition yourself to the physical exercise, and loosen up those old, tired joints and muscles, the exercise will leave you feeling so much better than after miles of driving in a seated position.
' Every mile you cover by foot, bicycle, or paddling is one mile less you have driven, saving fuel, and reducing CO2 emissions. Definitely a win-win situation.
|TIP OF THE MONTH - JULY 2008|
July, 1 2008
Gas Prices Got You Down?
By Bob Difley
So you thought you knew every conceivable method for squeezing another mile out of each gallon of the liquid gold. Think again. Already in some places approaching $5 a gallon, most of us are willing to try almost any reasonable idea to drive efficiently and save fuel. The obvious ways are to reduce your load--get rid of that collection of Hardy Boys books and the back-up chain saw and hedge trimmer, resist drag racing other RVs from the stop light, lift your heavy foot from the accelerator pedal, and cut back on the number of miles you drive. Other ideas abound, some sounding realistic, others . . . well . . .
To help you determine which ideas have merit and which are malarkey, the Boston Globe collected the following results from several testing sources, such as Popular Mechanics and Consumer Reports. See if you can figure out which of the following gas tips have merit or are malarkey.
Merit or Malarkey? When the temperature soars, fill your tank when it is coolest'early morning or late evening'when the gas is denser. The denser the gas, the better your fuel mileage.
Malarkey. Both Consumer Reports and Popular Mechanics have debunked this rumor. Today's fuel pumps are temperature-compensated to regulate fuel density, according to Popular Mechanics. Even if they weren't, gas temperatures remain quite stable all day, so that going out of your way to fill up at a certain time has no advantage.
Turn Off the Air Conditioning
Merit or Malarkey? It's in the upper 80s, heading toward the 90s. Hot. But to save gas you open the windows and turn off the air, putting less strain on the engine and resulting in better fuel mileage. And by not running the air, you will help to acclimatize yourself to the heat.
Malarkey maybe. Consumer Reports ran this test using a Toyota Camry driving at 65 mph and found little difference. The strain on the engine offset the drag created by the open windows. However, the Department of Energy (DOE) website suggests turning off the air conditioning when driving below 40 mph. However, these tests may be meaningless when compared to a motorhome or truck as the drag produced by open windows would be much less and the engine effort more. I would still bet on turning off the air to get the best mileage, but your own tests might show different results.
Merit or Malarkey? If you get stuck in traffic or in a construction zone, turn off your engine. Idling burns up more fuel than it takes to restart your engine.
Merit. Today's fuel injected engines will restart a warm engine without wasting fuel, and idling is an inefficient fuel waster to begin with.
Don't Fill Up When the Fuel Truck is Present
Merit or Malarkey? If you pull up to a gas station when the fuel truck is delivering, drive on by. The inflow of fuel stirs up sediment in the station tank, which could be pumped into your tank, which in turn will decrease your gas mileage.
Malarkey. While it is possible that the fuel delivery might stir up sediment in the bottom of the tank, both the gas station and your vehicle have filters that will prevent grit or dirt from affecting your car's performance.
Pick the Best Day of the Week to Fill Up
Merit or Malarkey? Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days to buy gas since gas prices level out mid-week.
Malarkey. If you knew when gas prices would go up or down you would be rich playing the futures market and you wouldn't have to worry about the price of gas. To find out where the best prices are in your area, go online to www.GasBuddy.com..
Pick the Highest Grade of Gas for Better Fuel Economy
Merit or Malarkey? Even though your vehicle manual recommends regular gasoline, buying the higher quality premium gas will get you better gas mileage.
Malarkey. Granted that premium gas is a higher quality, according to Consumer Reports if your vehicle was designed to run on regular gas, that is how it will run best. Modern sensor systems automatically synchronize the engine and fuel to prevent engine knocking, or pinging, which is caused by lower grade fuel igniting prematurely.
Over Inflate Your Tires
Merit or Malarkey? By over-inflating your tires, there will be less rubber on the road and therefore less rolling resistance.
Malarkey. Popular Mechanics tested this theory and determined that the reduced resistance does not actually improve gas mileage, and in fact causes a much harder, bumpier ride. However, according to the DOE, when inflated to the proper level recommended by the tire manufacturer, fuel mileage actually increases by about 3.3 percent.
Merit or Malarkey? Set the nozzle to pump at the lowest rate to avoid air and vapors'that replace gas--from entering your tank.
Malarkey. Modern fueling systems are designed to prevent air or fumes from displacing gas.
Drive with Your Truck's Tailgate Down
Merit or Malarkey? Driving with the tailgate of your truck down makes the truck more aerodynamic, improving fuel economy.
Malarkey. This seems logical, but this is one theory that's been tested and debunked by more than one car expert, including on the Discovery Channel's MythBusters TV show. They found that driving with the tailgate down actually decreases mileage.
Change Your Air Filter
Merit or Malarkey? A clogged or dirty air filter prevents the free flow of air to the engine, and while burning the same amount of fuel, the air/fuel ratio will be off causing the engine to run inefficiently.
Malarkey. Unless you are driving a 1977 Superior motorhome. However, modern engine technology now compensates for a dirty air filter. Popular Mechanics and Consumer reports both agree that today's engines will inject just the right amount of fuel, adjusting automatically to the amount of air received.
|TIP OF THE MONTH - JUNE 2008|
June, 1 2008
Sportscoach Elite (Coachmen) diesel Class A that employs a hydrogen generating system to produce a portion of its fuel.
GOING GREEN: What Selected RV Manufacturers Are Doing To Make Both Their Operations and Vehicles More Environmentally Friendly
By Bob Difley
All of us can become more pro-active in support of environmental responsibility, sustainability, and energy conservation by asking businesses that we buy from what they are doing to make their products and operations more environmentally friendly, letting them know that you care and will patronize those companies that take their environmental obligations seriously.
This is not easy to do with RV manufacturers, since most of us only come into contact with their independent dealers. However, if you tour factories, or visit manufacturers booths at RV shows, you can make your views known. RV manufacturers are like most other businesses, they make the products that their customers want to buy, and until they determine that you want something greener, or smaller, or more fuel-friendly, they will continue to churn out what sells.
To see where the RV industry was headed, I contacted the major manufacturers of RVs and asked them what they were hearing from you, their customer, and what they were doing to produce greener vehicles and practice greener manufacturing operations.
The following are the replies I received, followed by a list of those companies that did not respond (a few due to incorrect email address).
'Preservation of the environment is particularly important to Winnebago Industries,' says Sheila Davis, Public Relations/Investor Relations Manager for Winnebago Industries, 'since the company's products are designed specifically for facilitating the enjoyment of outdoor leisure activities.' She points out Winnebago's history with fuel-efficient motorhomes such as the LeSharo and Itasca Phasar, the Winnebago Warrior, Itasca Spirit, and Rialta. They seem to have hit a home run with their Class C Winnebago View and Itasca Navion, both 23-foot Mercedes 5-cylinder powered diesels that get 17 to 19 mpg.
Winnebago also has adopted the green concept of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle in its manufacturing operations and has received the "Pollution Prevention Environmental Excellence Award" from the EPA in 1995, the "Best Business Recycling Program" award from the Iowa Recycling Association in 2006, and participated in the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Pollution Prevention Intern Program with three interns specifically dedicated to identifying potential saving and recycling programs for the company. Even back when 'green' was a descriptive word for trees and money, Winnebago recycled aluminum, and today recycles 70% of their solid waste.
"Winnebago Industries is dedicated to continued efforts in eliminating all forms of pollution through smarter use of materials and process operation." says Russ Daggett, plant engineering manager.
And for the RVs themselves, the company uses low-emission paints and adhesives, low-flow toilets, solar panels to maintain coach batteries, Energy Star appliances, recycled carpeting, non-wood materials for flooring and walls, faucets with water-saving aerators, and compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs.
Lance, manufacturers of truck campers, also takes the environment seriously, according to Marketing Manager, Norm Jacobson. In addition to offering dual pane windows in their products and urging their customers to install solar panels, office as well as factory operations have recycling bins and in the factory, all metal scrap and paper goods are recycled. As of May 1st, factory starting time has been changed to 6 a.m. from 7 a.m. to reduce air conditioning and electricity usage.
'Our manufacturing facilities are some of the most modern in our industry,' says Craig Wanichek, Director of Dealer Services and Investor Relations for Monaco Coach Corp. The factory utilizes energy saving features such as natural lighting, motion sensors, high efficiency lighting, and an energy efficient heating and ventilating system with a recirculating air system to return tempered air during cold months to reduce energy consumption. 'Most global warming concerns are energy consumption issues,' he adds, 'and it serves Monaco as well as every manufacturer to look at energy efficient programs.'
In the 2009 model year Fleetwood will offer a solar panel option on some brands and will use more LED lighting that reduce electrical drain on batteries. Fleetwood also promises additional green measures in the near future.
Though Coachmen did not respond I found this 2007 news release. 'People attending the recent Coachmen' RV Group owners rally had an opportunity to see a full-size motorhome that is powered by biodiesel fuel and has an electrical system that operates on solar power.
They also got to view a Sportscoach Elite diesel Class A that employs a hydrogen generating system to produce a portion of its fuel. These are just two of the examples of how Coachmen RV Group is pursuing "green" technology for the next generation of its RVs.' ' . . . traditional innovation is not enough,' says Michael R. Terlep, president of Coachmen RV Group. 'Our designs must be forward thinking and beyond the conventional limits of creative, they must be environmentally friendly. A focus on Green RV's is the right thing to do for the environment and the customer!'
Though not a manufacturer of RVs, Dometic produces a large percentage of RV appliances and add-ons. They have developed an all-absorption refrigerator with zero Global Warming Potential (GWP), offer a full line of green cleaning and sanitation products, and maintain aluminum and metal recycling programs at their manufacturing plants.
Next RV Manufacturer Round Up
By my next column on RV industry manufacturers I hope to have heard from those that did not respond: Airstream, Country Coach, Gulf Stream, Jayco, Rexhall, Roadtrek, Star Craft, Thor, Tiffin, - as well as others that I haven't yet tried to contact.
|TIP OF THE MONTH - MAY 2008|
May, 1 2008
Go Green. Go RVing
By Bob Difley
If you have ever had a non-RVer comment about your rig's voracious petroleum appetite, and you felt a twinge of guilt (and frustration) when you considered your average miles per gallon, take a look at your RV Lifestyle from another perspective.
First, acknowledge the low fuel mileage (compared to a passenger car) and respond that you are, in fact, lugging your home around with you. And that when you get where you are going, you intend to stay there for several days, or a week, or more, unlike most urban commuters who round-trip from their stick houses every day to go to work. A few quick calculations will determine that your staying put uses less fuel than the higher mileage commuter car uses driving back and forth.
From then on, it's a simple matter of stepping through your rig, system-by-system, and comparing to the similar feature in a normal house. For instance, most homes have 100-gallon or more water heaters that stay on all the time, keeping all that water piping hot 24/7.
My motorhome has a 6-gallon water heater, which I do not run constantly, turning it on 15 minutes before showering or washing dishes (which we do consecutively most of the time) and turning it off after we are finished. Some of you will have larger water heaters, but I bet none of you have one the size of your home water heater. Think how much energy is saved using your motorhome water heater. You can go one step further by installing an instantaneous tankless (on-demand) water heater that runs only when you turn on the hot water faucet, providing you with instant hot water.
On the subject of water, how about showering. Most of us'in our rig--turn on the water and wet down, turn off the water, lather up, and turn on the water to rinse (you do, don't you?). Who does that at home? Much more water flows down the drain at home than into your rig's holding tank.
How about your contributions to the landfill? With the constrictions on size in your rig, the smart RVer buys as many bulk products as possible, eliminating useless packaging that takes up precious space'both in the cabinets and in the trashcan, then ends up in'you know where. Bulk buying also saves you money, since $1 of every $11 spent on food goes into packaging.
Eventually you will get to the point where you make the shopping rule that if something comes aboard, something has to go off'or else your limited space is soon overflowing. This cuts down on impulse buying (saving the energy needed to produce those items you don't buy) and money.
Then there is air-conditioning and heating. It's a no-brainer figuring out that your RV takes less of each to cool or heat than a house, again cutting down on energy used, greenhouse gasses expelled into the atmosphere, and your total carbon footprint.
Lastly, try camping off the power grid (see boondocking sidebar) a few times a month, using your batteries for power instead of the campground electricity. If you would dry camp three times a month, you would reduce your greenhouse gas producing electricity usage by almost 10%.
The next time someone questions you about your 'gas hog' you can explain to them how RVing is actually a Green lifestyle.
|Boondocking: The Ultimate Energy Saver|
April, 30 2008
Photo by:Bob Difley
Boondocking on the Salmon River
By Bob Difley
Isn't it great when something you enjoy doing is good for you, combats the climate change problem, and also saves you money. Take boondocking, for example. Whether you dry camp at a tree-shaded state park, beside a giant flowering saguaro cactus at a BLM Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA) in the desert, or you've found a secluded spot by a rippling stream deep in a national forest, you can't help but reduce much of your usual energy usage, greenhouse gas production, and your contribution to the landfill.
What boondocking nudges you to do is similar to the familiar green mantra'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. By reducing the expenditure of your water supply, propane, electricity, and the volume flowing into the holding tanks, you extend the number of days that you can boondock without having to leave an idyllic site to deal with system restoration.
Where would you rather be, snoozing by a stream with a fishing line tied to your toe, or hovering over an odiferous dump station?
And while you are out there playing, your grid-produced electricity usage is zero'producing no new greenhouse gasses to accommodate your boondocking efforts. You either generate your own power, hopefully using a free renewable energy source like a wind turbine or solar panels, or recharge your house batteries via your rig's engine when you finally pull out of your campsite.
If you have no alternate power source, try to combine high electrical usage activities like showering and dishwashing (running your water pump), and using your microwave, hairdryer, or espresso machine while running your generator. This will use the generator's power for those functions rather than depleting the batteries, and will cut down on the total run time of the generator. But be careful not to exceed the wattage output of your generator if you run these devices together rather than consecutively.
Reusing or recycling plastic grocery bags as trash bags, plastic spring water containers as an emergency potable water source, used paper plates, newspapers, and cups as campfire starters, and collecting water in a tub while waiting for the shower water to run hot and using to pre-scrub dinner dishes all conserve resources. As you become a veteran boondocker, you will find your own methods of reducing and reusing'thereby significantly under-producing the 4.4 pounds of trash that the average American generates each day and ultimately end up in landfills.
Follow even a few of the above practices and you can be sure that Mother Earth will be the better for it.
|TIP OF THE MONTH - APRIL 2008|
April, 1 2008
Choosing Green Businesses
By Bob Difley
Can anybody, even the most conservative global warming and environmental skeptic, not notice that green living has entered the mainstream of Americans' lives? Nearly everyone has developed a green habit over the last couple years, like recycling cans and bottles, for instance, or buying more local food, cutting back on beef, and driving less. Even if you only recycled, reused, or reduced consumption a small amount, it has been noticed.
Politicians have noticed. Manufacturers have noticed. Farmers have noticed. And most importantly, marketing people have noticed. No, they haven't hidden spy cameras in your light fixtures (where you have already changed out the incandescent bulbs for energy saver fluorescent bulbs, right?) or go through your trash cans in the dead of night to see if you are recycling enough.
They have noticed because in our data intense society, every downturn or up tick in the use of--or type of--retail goods purchased tells them what we as consumers are doing.
They know how many grocery stores have changed over to either paper or recyclable (bioplastic) plastic bags and how much floor space (and dollar sales) is represented by organic food. They have noticed the phenomenal growth of Whole Foods Markets, an organic food chain that is the fastest growing grocery chain in the nation.
One company that notices is Dupont, one of the top three chemical companies in the world, and not a name you would associate with green. But CEO Charles Holliday told the New York Times that 10% of their company's products are bioplastic'made from nonpetrochemical substances--and that he expects them to reach 25% by 2010.
Have you asked the companies that you buy from whether they have offset their carbon footprint by purchasing carbon credits or renewable energy certificates (RECs), also known as 'green tags'? They make note of these questions.
As evidence that corporate America is paying attention is the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Green Power Challenge report for 2007 that lists America's businesses ranked by their purchases of green power electricity, both by total volume and a percentage of their total electricity use. Number one for total volume of green power electricity bought was Intel with 1.3 billion kWh (46% of their total electrical usage), followed by PepsiCo with 1.1 billion kWh (100% of their electrical). Following were Wells Fargo Bank (42% of total), Whole Foods Markets (100%), The Pepsi Bottling Group (100%), Johnson & Johnson (39%), Cisco Systems (51%), Kohl's Department Stores (20%), Starbucks (20%), and Dupont (4%). Other 100% purchasers include the EPA (they better!), Coldwater Creek, New York University, and REI. You can see the entire list at: http://www.epa.gov/grnpower/toplists/top25.htm.
Guess who said this . . . 'There can't be anything good about putting chemicals in these rivers in Third World countries so that somebody can buy an item for less money in a developed country. Those things are just inherently wrong, whether you are an environmentalist or not.' It was Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart. Regarding his company's moves toward sustainability and greener practices. He later added, 'I had an intellectual interest when we started. I have a passion today.' Now don't expect Wal-Mart'or any other super-large corporate giant'to suddenly embrace altruism and forget the bottom line. But . . . one, they're paying attention, two, they're watching products you buy, and three, they have figured out that they can still make money'the bottom line'from greening their brand.
So if you want the big guys to correct their slovenly ways, shape up their suppliers, and dump less into sewers, rivers, and landfills, when you see organic cotton clothes, organic and locally-purchased sections in supermarkets, products made with recycled materials'buy them. The store notices. The manufacturer notices. And you can pat yourself on the back for doing a good thing.
|Analyzing Green Hype|
March, 31 2008
By Bob Difley
Wouldn't you knnow it? Just when we were getting comfortable with the thought that American businesses were adopting more environmentally responsible manufacturing and operating practices, we get broadsided by charges of 'greenwashing'.
It seems that some marketing or public relations people have fudged a tad on statements about their products or operations that tend to inflate the green value and downplay their dirty laundry, in a sense like my old dorm mate, pushing it under the bed and out of sight.
So how do we tell what is the hype and what isn't? One way might be to look at 'The Six Sins of Greenwashing' report released by Terrachoice Environmental Marketing, which looked at 1,018 common consumer products and found that 99% of the claims were guilty of at least some greenwashing.
Sin of Hidden Trade-Off:
Electronics manufacturers that promote 'energy efficient' products that contain hazardous materials.
The problem arises when hiding a trade-off between environmental issues (57% of environmental claims committed this sin).
Sin of No Proof:
Products like shampoo that claim not to have been tested on animals, yet have no verifiable proof (26% of claims).
Sin of Vagueness:
Products that claim to be 100% natural that contain hazardous substances like arsenic and formaldehyde. Similarly, watch for other popular but vague green terms: 'non-toxic', 'all-natural', 'environmentally-friendly', and 'earth-friendly.' (11% of claims)
Sin of Irrelevance:
Products claiming to be CFC (chloroflourocaron) free though CFCs have been banned for 20 years (4% of claims).
Sin of Fibbing:
Products that claim false certification. You can confirm claims of legitimate third-party certifiers (such as EcoLogo, Chlorine Free Products Association (CFPA), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Green Guard, Green Seal) that all maintain publicly available lists of certified products. Some even maintain fraud advisories for products that are falsely claiming certification (thankfully, less than 1% of claims).
Sin of Lesser of Two Evils:
Do the claims try to make you feel 'green' about a product category that is of questionable environmental benefit, such as organic cigarettes or environmentally-friendly pesticides (1% of claims)?
If you can find a Material Data Sheet on a company's Web site you can also find out, for instance, that of two products that are both certified, one may be below the standard for that product (formaldehyde content for instance), thus obtaining the certification, but another, also certified, might be formaldehyde free.
|TIP OF THE MONTH - MARCH 2008|
March, 1 2008
Frog's Leap Red Barn
Green Branding: Manufacturers are Discovering
Green Begets Green
By Bob Difley
Manufacturers recoil in shock when activists suggest making product components, production practices, waste management, and resource usage follow more environmentally conscious practices. 'The cost,' they cry in anguish, 'will make us non-competitive in the marketplace! People won't pay more for greener products.'
But sometimes we consumers surprise the forecasters, pollsters, and market research experts. A couple of months ago a Chicago market research firm found that at least 30% of shoppers look for environmentally friendly products and packages when selecting brands. And in a study co-authored by the Travel Industry Association of America, fully 8 out of 10 adults claim to be environmentally conscious, and half of all respondents stated they would more than likely select an airline if they knew it took the initiative to offset carbon emissions, used newer and more efficient jets, or practiced recycling programs.
Small green companies, instead of being intimidated by their larger competitors, are proving that green can compete. Frog's Leap Winery of Rutherford, California is surrounded by the big Napa Valley Wineries and still manages to sell 60,000 cases annually of their certified organic wines from a historic 1884 barn. And you can't beat their slogan, 'Time's fun when you're having flies.'
Large companies are finding that there is a demand for green products, even at a premium, over their traditional products. Big Box retailers like Wal-mart and The Gap'that stocks a line of low-priced, unbleached, organic cotton men's T-shirts in 500 stores across the country'are proving that green products will move off the shelves.
You can bet your last shilling that manufacturers like Levi's wouldn't turn out jeans made of organic cotton, identified by a green lowercase 'e' stitched into the fabric, if there wasn't a demand in the marketplace. You don't have to take Economics 101 to understand that when there is demand, supply goes up, competition increases, manufacturing costs go down, and retail prices follow. Levi's Eco jeans now are comparably priced with their traditional jeans.
Not only do green brands sell, but you could then proclaim how your company was concerned for the environment and was helping save the world by:
' Following environmentally-friendly practices
' Reducing waste and pollution
' Using organic and sustainable ingredients and raw materials
And if your company maintained a healthy bottom line and got lots of good press coverage, well . . . America's CEOs have figured it out.
'There is definitely increased awareness around global warming with Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize,' A spokeswoman for Kraft said. 'Consumer awareness is definitely higher than it has ever been.'
Do you know who is responsible for this turn around in the way manufacturers view their marketing and sales efforts? We all are. We, the consumers, who have been willing to pay a little more for green products from environmentally responsible companies, which in turn has provided a powerful boost to the green product revolution in the marketplace. Take for instance Toyota's Prius. If people hadn't been willing to pay a premium for a high-mileage, low polluting auto, the whole hybrid concept would have evaporated like a puddle in the desert. Now the hybrid automobile business has gone mainstream, as most manufacturers now have introduced or are working on hybrids'and retail pricing is dropping closer and closer to regular vehicle prices. Even investors have taken notice, Goldman Sachs now includes companys' environmental policies in their company research reports.
Will green RVs be far behind? Not when surcharges like the government in London introduced last month, a 200-pound ($295) daily surcharge for 'older, diesel-engined trucks, motorhomes and horseboxes weighing more than 12 tonnes and which fail to meet EU emissions standards' when entering the world's largest green zone'the 609 square-mile Greater London area.
Green awareness has taken hold big time, and is happening to every phase of manufacturing'in the service sector, in importing, and yes, even in the RV industry. (Look for that article in a coming issue as I search out and find those RV companies that are not only accepting environmental responsibility, but doing something about it. For example, check out the video on the hybrid Westfalia Verdier, the green VW bus camper of the future at www.verdier.ca.)
Are you willing to pay a little more for green products and services until the marketplace's competitiveness reduces prices on the retail level? Are you letting these companies know that you care? You have the power'to buy or not to buy'to influence them. So ask yourself if you are part of the solution to global warming, or are you part of the problem?
|The Green RVer's Green Executive Honor Roll:|
March, 1 2008
Gary Hirshberg, CEO, Stonyfield Farm
Gary Hirshberg, CEO, Stonyfield Farm
By Bob Difley
Stonyfield Farm, maker of organic yogurt, recently helped form an organization to rate companies' environmental practices. Called Climate Counts, they will score prominent companies on their reaction to climate change.
The first ratings targeted the largest fast food chains, and as you might guess, all rated poorly (McDonald's scored highest on the 1 to 100 scale with 22, while Wendy's, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Burger King scored 0). One reason for this might be a look at their customer base, mainly young males, whose interests in the young ladies who serve their food takes precedence over the company's green practices, and therefore not pressing the companies to adopt environmental responsibility.
Do we baby boomers and retirees want to be placed in the same bubble of environmental awareness and responsibility as young males? I think not.
So ask the companies you do business with and whose products you buy what they are doing to protect the environment and reduce global warming and rate them accordingly, just as Greg Hirshberg has done.
If you don't think Climate Counts' online environmental rating has any influence on how a company reacts to climate change, consider the case of Sara Lee, that received a rating of 2 (on a scale of 100) on its efforts to reduce its impact on the environment and for its reporting of green policies. Sara Lee was quick to react to the abysmal rating, with a statement by VP Audra Karalius, who said the rating was the result of not providing the information requested to Climate Counts.
However, the effect of the rating has stimulated Sara Lee to take extra efforts to improve it. They recently added a page to their Web site explaining their commitment to environmentally friendly practices and that the company plans to provide information about water and energy use. She also says that the company is rearranging its distribution centers to shorten its truck routes to save fuel and is planning on using solar power in one of its bread baking plants in New Mexico.
'The food industry has never been under siege before about environmental issues,' she says. That makes an even stronger point that companies are listening.
Kudos to Greg Hirshberg and Climate Counts. You can see the performance rating of the companies evaluated so far at www.climatecounts.org.
|TIP OF THE MONTH - FEBRUARY 2008|
February, 1 2008
Recycling: It's Not Just Aluminum Cans
By Bob Difley
More than 40 million -slightly above 50% -of all baby boomers, according to a recent survey by Roper Consumer Research, say they practice at least some green habits, such as buying organics or recycling, as part of their daily lifestyle, and the figure is climbing. The study indicates that 58% of young adults age 24 and under are willing to make lifestyle changes in 2008 for the good of the environment, compared to 49% of all ages (though they qualified it by saying the efforts had to be relatively easy).
Older respondents, unfortunately, were less likely to set such goals, with only half of those aged 50 to 64 and even fewer - 40 percent - of retirement age people claim they would adopt green habits.
Come on you senior laggards! How can you let your kids and grandkids act more responsibly than you older and 'wiser' adults? Is that like 'do as I say, not as I do?' And I'm embarrassed to add that we men were less likely than women to admit feeling badly about not doing enough for the planet (26% compared to 36% of women).
About three-quarters of those polled plan either to reduce their use of energy at home or ramp up recycling efforts. Recycling old, used, or worn out items so that the material can be used to make new products is an easy, low cost, way to make a big impact on the environment. You have already seen'and hopefully used'recycling containers for glass, plastic, newspapers, and aluminum cans.
Recycling not only makes use of discarded items, but also keeps waste out of landfills and reduces the amount of raw materials required by manufacturers, therefore preserving more of our natural resources. So if among your New Year's Resolutions you declared to 'take a green step,' even if you added the 'if it's easy' part, beginning to recycle would be a first, and yes, an easy step, even for those of you who have always let your wives pick up after you.
' The number of campgrounds, both private and public, that have set up recycling containers is on the upswing. Take a few minutes to learn what goes where, then use them. In your rig, keep your disposable trash separate from the recycling bin. If your campground doesn't provide for recycling, nudge them in the right direction.
' Recycle for use: Buy used, rebuilt, and reconditioned products.
' Buy products that have been manufactured with recycled materials. Look for the recycle graphic.
' Repair instead of replace. Extend the useful life of a product.
' Buy bulk foods, un-packaged products, and from farmers markets, avoiding packaging that needs to be recycled or ends up as disposable trash.
' Use cloth bags at the food store. No plastic bags for you any more.
' Donate unwanted items to the Salvation Army or Goodwill instead of banishing them to the landfill.
You will surprise yourself, once you try, at how little ends up in your disposable trash container'and once you establish the habit, how easy and automatic it becomes that it blends into the flow of daily life.
|Paper or Plastic? How About Cloth?|
February, 1 2008
By Bob Difley
The next time you scrunch up a plastic bag from the supermarket and chuck it into the trashcan think about this. It took energy and raw materials to produce that plastic bag. A building with air-conditioning, electricity, water, and more raw materials was necessary to store the bags until they were shipped. It required some form of transportation to move the bags from the storage facility to the supermarket. The bag you just threw into the trash can'if not recycled'at best ended up in a landfill, at worst blowing along once pristine beaches or snagging in fences and tree branches, or at the very worst, being ingested by fish that then suffocate.
Now consider an alternative'cloth shopping bags. These bags require manufacturing only once and can be used hundreds of times. The use of sustainable raw materials to manufacture the bags is more eco-friendly than oil-based plastics.
The number of manufacturing plants, storage facilities, and eighteen-wheelers required for a 'cloth bag shopping culture' would be a fraction of that needed to produce and distribute the millions of plastic bags used daily in our 'waste producing' culture. Not to mention fewer landfills to hold the discarded bags, fewer fences, telephone lines, vacant lots, bushes, and tree branches festooned with plastic detritus, and you would not have to listen to the familiar mantra of 'paper or plastic' from the checkout clerk.
Just how difficult is it to switch over to cloth bags? First is cost. A new cloth bag could cost as much as five dollars if it is decorated with snappy graphics and glittery design features. Or it could cost a quarter at a second-hand store (a good example of recycling). If you decide that your cloth shopping bags should also make an environmental statement (printed with the green recycle graphic), or to promote your favorite merchants (many of which produce their own branded bags), or as a rallying point or political slogan, your bags can perform double duty. So OK, it may cost a few (very few) bucks to make the transition over to cloth, but consider how many plastic bags you didn't use.
How about convenience. My wife and I keep half a dozen cloth bags rolled up and secured with a rubber band in the toad, always available for use. We automatically grab them when we stop at a fruit stand, farmers market, or head into a supermarket. Some markets even rebate a few pennies per bag if you bring your own. And as the bagger is filling your nice cloth bags, go over in your mind all the positive advantages of using cloth bags - and try to make sense of the recent study that showed that among the least popular green adjustments people were willing to make was toting reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, noted by only 42% of those polled. Go figure.
|TIP OF THE MONTH - JANUARY 2008|
January, 1 2008
2008 NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS
By Bob Difley
On November 17th the United Nations released the Synthesis Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose members concluded that reductions in greenhouse gases had to start immediately to avert a global climate disaster. The panel, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, said the world would have to reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2015. The scientific report was ratified by delegates from 130 nations, including the reluctant United States, meaning that these nations now agree that the science is undisputed, and now only the methods needed to reverse climate change remain to be worked out.
So, if you've been on the fence, or feel that the New Year is the time to think about taking some personal action, the following Resolutions should give you some talking points around the campfire.
The Green RVer's New Year's Resolutions
' DRIVE LESS ' When the lure of the open road tugs the reins of your RV horses look around for destinations closer to home, or a shorter distance from your current campsite. If you are used to driving a couple hundred miles to your next campground, instead search the local area and talk to your neighbors about interesting spots they may know of that will take less gas, reduce your time on the road, save you money, pollute less, and maybe introduce you to new and wonderful places.
' STAY LONGER ' Is there a reason to move on? A day or two longer in your current campground might give you the opportunity to relax a bit longer, hike a couple new trails, catch another fish, play another round of golf, or read a new book. And your next stop will still be there a few days later.
' WALK, HIKE, PADDLE, AND BIKE MORE ' People powered transportation not only saves fuel and has zero emissions, the exercise will convert your doughboy flab into Arnold Schwarzenegger-like muscles. And daily exercise will make you feel a whole lot better also.
' EAT LOCAL, EAT FRESH (see June 2007 Green RVer) ' Food transportation expense (fuel and CO2 emissions) according to one Iowa study found that costs were from 4 to 17 times greater than a regional-based food distribution system.
' RECYCLE ' Ask the campground if they have recycle bins and use them, or encourage the managers to add them.
' BOONDOCK ' Every time you camp without hookups you will find yourself automatically conserving water and power. And you'll be saving money and probably enjoying more of a back-to-nature camping experience.
' CONSERVE ' All of us can purchase less and use longer most of the items that we use regularly, thereby cutting down on manufacturing, shipping, what ends up in land fills, and the resultant pollution.
Practice some or all of these resolutions and you may find that you feel better about yourself also.
Happy New Year!
|TIP OF THE MONTH - DECEMBER 2007|
December, 1 2007
Speak, and They Will Listen
By Bob Difley
We average RVers lack the clout to influence legislation as a member of Congress or a Senator does, or the broad reach of a Fortune 500 CEO's decision to alter his company's environmental guidelines. But one of the most effective ways that we can lobby for more responsible legislative and corporate earth-friendly policies is to first become knowledgeable on the issues.
Accessing the Information Super Highway
Fortunately, with the ease of use of the internet, we can readily search for the most recent scientific studies and relevant research from the world's leading environmental and climate researchers and universities.
You can learn about your state's climate friendly'or unfriendly'positions on the website www.nextgenerationearth.org, produced by the Earth Institute at Columbia University and clicking on your state.
com from National Geographic Traveler is a source of information about practical everyday, environmentally responsible, personally relevant, and health-minded product choices, actions, and solutions.
Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection, with tips from persuading your local supermarket to stock more climate friendly products to mobilizing our government to improve public transit, can be found at www.climateprotect.org.
Finally, type google.com/alerts in your search box. In the box that pops up enter your topic of interest, such as green travel or green living and Google will search the internet and send the results to you in a weekly email list of links to articles, news stories, and Web sites.
After you've accumulated this extensive knowledge, don't stop there. It's time to take action, time to let those that court your vote, that want you to buy their products, and can effect change, know that you have done your due diligence, that you are pro-active'and vocal'in making your opinions known, and, most importantly, that YOU VOTE.
You can also assure that your words will be seen in the right places and by the right people with a surprisingly minimal amount of effort, just by learning where to look and having a database of email addresses at your fingertips.
Nearly every American and International company has a website that you can find by typing its name in a search box, which will give you the company's site address. In the site look for a link called Contact, which you click on to get their email address. Then speak, er, type your mind. Do it! Those emails get read.
Open www.conservativeusa.org/mega-cong.htm to find a list of the websites, fax numbers, and email addresses of all the US Senators and members of the House of Representatives and their various committees, as well as state governors and members of the state legislatures. It takes but a minute to whip off an email.
|TIP OF THE MONTH - NOVEMBER 2007|
November, 1 2007
WHERE'S THE BEEF?
By Bob Difley
If I said that you could reduce your impact on global warming, decrease air and water pollution, practice environmental conservation, and eat healthier by making one simple life change'cutting back on the amount of meat you eat'you would think I had lost it. Until you start to look at some hard data.
For instance, it takes far more fossil fuel energy to produce a pound of beef than the energy (calories) provided by eating it. 'Energy to produce beef?' you say. 'You turn a cow out to pasture and let it eat. What energy?'
In the Dick and Jane on the Farm image, cows graze contentedly on grass, turning this naturally available food source into people food. Manure (a natural, biodegradable fertilizer) returns needed nutrients to the soil'and they provide milk.
The reality is that US beef cattle are raised on factory farms, with 1,000 to 10,000 cows crammed into congested feedlots and fed corn (not their natural diet), growth hormones, and antibiotics.
Besides the enormous groundwater and air pollution problems, it takes sixteen pounds of grain and soy feed to produce one pound of edible meat (Frances Moore Lapp', Diet For a Small Planet). Feedlots use 54 calories of energy (fossil fuels) to produce one calorie of beef, according to David Pimentel, Cornell University professor of ecology and agricultural science.
How about greenhouse gasses? Next to carbon dioxide (CO2), methane is the fastest growing greenhouse gas'and is 24 times as potent than CO2. It comes from the same place as manure, with livestock accounting for 15'20% of global methane gas according to Worldwatch Institute.
How much of our natural resources does it take to grow beef cattle?
According to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, it takes 441 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef (2,500 gallons according to the non-profit Water Education Foundation). In contrast, it takes 23 gallons to raise 1 pound of lettuce or tomatoes and 25 gallons for 1 pound of wheat.
However, the good news is that by switching to organic, local beef, you can reduce the livestock population of factory farms, resulting in all the right environmental results'and it tastes better. Organic cows graze in actual pastures on sustainable farms, and are not fed growth hormones or antibiotics.
As you cruise down those bucolic two-lane country roads, what scenery would you rather see, a pasture of smiling cows or a stinking feedlot. Eating organic meat will cost you a bit more money but if you reduce your portion size it could even out'plus you will lose weight and be healthier for it.
Read John Robbins' book, The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World, and What to Eat by Marion Nestle. Visit Dr. Dean Ornish's Web site: www.webmd.com, Worldwatch Institute at: www.worldwatch.org/taxonomy/term/98.
|TIP OF THE MONTH - OCTOBER 2007|
October, 1 2007
By Bob Difley
If we waited for our federal legislators to act to curb threats to global warming we could still be waiting as high tides washed across the floor of our favorite seaside chowder house. Fortunately, some state governments, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Massachusetts, Vermont, Minnesota, and Wisconsin to name a few, have enacted environmental and global warming controls far surpassing federal requirements.
Many public and private companies as well have accepted the responsibility for their CO2 emissions and environmental impact by incorporating green practices in their business operations, even though federal mandates do not require them. These are the companies that we, as responsible citizens, can direct our purchasing power to, not only as the smart choice, but also to send a message to other companies that going green is a viable business decision.
It's Easy Being Green
For instance, in 1998 New Belgium Brewing Company engineers found that the city's power plant'which supplied their power'created the bulk of their CO2 emissions. So the employee owners agreed to dig into their bonus money to finance the installation of wind turbines to supply their power. You can support businesses like New Belgium that take responsible environmental positions by purchasing their products, which in this case is not at all difficult, since they produce the acclaimed Fat Tire Amber Ale.
All businesses can find ways to reduce their footprint on the earth, even companies that make basic products like socks. The Teko Socks people, that make high performance athletic socks'tested by cycling, hiking, and running the most rugged trails in Colorado and Wyoming'use recycled polyester to make their footwear. By avoiding more toxic fresh materials, they reduce their environmental impact and prove that using materials with the least environmental consequences doesn't compromise quality.
If you think about what you put in your stomach, consider New Hampshire's Stonyfield Farm's yogurt, which uses only pure all natural and organic pesticide-free ingredients'never any preservatives or artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners'and their milk suppliers have pledged not to use the synthetic bovine growth hormone, rBGH. They also donate 10% of their profits to efforts that help protect or restore the Earth, and recycle hundreds of tons of material by turning them into useful products as diverse as toothbrushes and razors. Isn't this the kind of company that you like to see become successful? They are now the world's leading organic yogurt producer with more than $260 million in sales.
And don't forget to think green when you buy your tow vehicle. Tesla Motors makes an all-electric vehicle that gets 200 miles per charge and accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in four seconds'the same acceleration time of a Lamborghini. Its energy expenditure (battery charging) is equivalent to 135 mpg! And the best part is, the Tesla Roadster only costs $100,000'less than a third of a new Lamborghini. What a bargain!
|TIP OF THE MONTH - SEPTEMBER 2007|
September, 1 2007
USING CARBON OFFSETS
By Bob Difley
If we parked our RVs, toads, and tows and just didn't drive we would definitely cut down on our fuel use, but we would also effectively abandon the wandering RV way of life we all enjoy and worked so hard to achieve.
There has to be a better way to save the planet, to stall the relentless march of global warming, to stop the world's ice caps and glaciers from turning into torrents of fresh water, and to keep our favorite ocean-side campsites above the high tide line.
Fortunately, there is. Because there are so many of us homosapiens, slight variations or changes in our individual lifestyles can result in great changes to the overall environment, and send a powerful message to our government leaders about what is already a global green wave.
The Web site, www.carbonfund.org, sums it up in its slogan, Reduce What You Can, Offset What You Can't.
The practice of 'offsets', also known as 'carbon offsets,' is a process that allows us to become part of the climate change solution by offsetting our personal carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
The greenhouse gasses, primarily CO2 but also methane and chlorofluorocarbons, we send into the atmosphere result from the burning of fossil fuels'the gasoline and diesel fuels used in our RVs and tow vehicles, transportation of manufactured goods and food to sales outlets, and everyday-use electricity to operate our heating and air conditioning, lights, TVs, icemakers, blenders, hair-dryers, and electric screwdrivers.
These atmospheric greenhouse gasses are now 40% higher than they were during the Industrial Revolution'the highest in recorded history, causing the average global temperature for the decade of the 1990s to be the warmest in 1,000 years.
But for now, let's consider just those CO2 molecules generated by our RVs and tow vehicles, without which we would not have an RV Lifestyle'and which would be unthinkable. Carbon Offsets can be more cost effective and practical than many other measures we as individuals can take to compensate for those gasses we emit.
Several organizations provide Carbon Offset Calculators on their Web sites where you can convert your personal CO2 emissions from the miles you drive annually based on the average MPG of your vehicles into a dollar figure that you then contribute to the many projects that offset those emissions, such as wind farms, planting of trees, building of solar power plants, and alternative energy research.
For instance, my estimate of 10,000 annual motorhome miles at an average MPG of 8.5, and an equal amount driven in my toad (MPG of 28), calculates out to 13.6 tons of emitted CO2. The cost to offset a year's driving is a paltry $74.82! You can also calculate the offset you need for special events or trips, such as a plane trip to visit grandkids.
To figure your Carbon Offsets, go to www.carbonfund.org, select the Individuals tab and click Carbon Calculators and enter your figures.
Want More Information?
Additional carbon calculators and methods to reduce your carbon footprint can be found at: www.liveneutral.org, www.e-bluehorizons.com, and www.atmosclear.org. You can also subscribe to the free bi-monthly The Green Guide from National Geographic at
|TIP OF THE MONTH - AUGUST 2007|
August, 1 2007
HARNESSING SUN AND WIND
By Bob Difley
If you are a boondocker, good for you. Your RV was designed to operate without tethers and every day/night that you do not hook up to the power grid you keep a few more coins in circulation in the good 'ol USA and out of the robes of OPEC's oil sultans. And is it a great hardship camping in a shady pine grove listening to a tumbling mountain stream instead of wedged between neighbors listening to their non-stop TV?
There is something else you can do to deprive those sultans. Carefully remove your generator from its locker, carry it over to that tumbling stream, and lower it into the water where it will provide habitat for rainbow trout.
All right. That is a bit extreme. But if you installed solar panels on your roof or a wind generator on a long pole attached to your rear ladder'or both'you could save your generator for short term, high-energy needs, like your espresso maker and microwave oven, rather than running it for hours to operate your low-power systems or to recharge house batteries.
Take a deep breath, though, when you price out solar panels. Though prices are falling, they still don't come in Cracker Jack boxes. However it will bring a smile to your furrowed brow once you get the panels installed and you see that meter ticking off the steady flow of juice into your batteries. The whole process is a perfectly relaxing antidote to noise pollution, and there are no moving parts that will ultimately wear out or break. Just dust the panels off from time to time and don't drop your bowling ball on them. The urge to create fish habitat with your generator will become even more tempting.
To ratchet up your energy independence, install a wind generator for when the sun ducks behind storm clouds and the wind pipes up. By utilizing these renewable energy sources and relegating your generator to back-up status rather than prime energy producer, you will be reducing your earth footprint in four areas: fossil fuel usage, discharge of greenhouse gasses, noise pollution, and grid-produced electricity. And after allowing for the purchase price, the energy produced has an operating cost of zero, zilch, nada.
Visit the education page at www.amsolar.com, a company specializing in RV solar systems for over twenty years. For wind energy information, click on the 'Wind Turbines' button on the www.altenergystore.com Web site for how-to articles.
|TIP OF THE MONTH - JULY 2007|
July, 1 2007
PUTTING THE BRAKES ON FUEL CONSUMPTION
By Bob Difley
James Howard Kunstler, author of the book The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, says too much emphasis has been placed on developing alternative energy sources and too little on changing the way society works, and that we are ''going to have to make fundamental changes in the way we live in this country'' So how do we, as responsible RVers, make these fundamental changes while preserving our RV Lifestyle. We could 'just say no to driving.' That isn't going to happen, but we can modify our habits to reduce our 'carbon footprint.' That is, simply, to drive less. That is not as difficult as it may at first sound. By making the following modifications to our travel and driving habits we can reduce fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, and fuel costs.
- Use your cruise control. The Edmund Automotive Network estimates that you can save about 15% in gas mileage.
- Studies show that the single biggest decrease in mileage is 'aggressive' driving such as fast acceleration, which could decrease gas mileage by 25%, and rapid braking. To prevent rapid braking, look ahead. If the light is red half a block away, take your foot off the gas pedal and drift until it changes, then speed up moderately. This could also save you a couple brake jobs.
- Maintain highway speeds at 55 mph. Studies show that fuel cost can increase ten cents for every mile over 60 mph.
- Plan your trip. Take the shortest route to your destination, which may not be the fastest, but will produce the best mileage.
- Instead of driving every night to a different campground, stay put a little longer. Explore the local area by walking, biking, public transportation, or by a small, low mileage, toad.
- Keep tires properly inflated and your engine in tune.
- Always take a bicycle. Bike to town, the store, and to explore state and national parks from your campground. You will you save on fuel and get your exercise.
- If you haven't bought your RV yet, look not only at the rated fuel economy, but also consider buying a diesel engine and converting it to burn alternative fuels like E85 ethanol, and used cooking oil.
- Find the lowest price for gas in your area online at: www.gasbuddy.com.
- If you stop for more than a minute, turn off your engine. Idling gobbles fuel.
|TIP OF THE MONTH - JUNE 2007|
June, 1 2007
EAT LOCAL, EAT FRESH
By Bob Difley
It takes energy to make energy, and 10% of all the energy consumed in the United States'about 100 billion gallons of oil each year--is used just growing our food. Processing and transporting all those rutabagas, feedlot steaks, and artisan breads to our table raises the figure to 17%. The Chicago Produce Terminal reports that food in America travels about 1,500 miles before you stick your fork into it. And that figure is rising as grapes arrive from Chile and apples from China.
The United Nations says that the average American is responsible for about 22 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year, compared to six tons per person throughout the rest of the world. You can trim some of this CO2 gluttony by eating as many fresh, whole, unprocessed foods as possible, and buying locally produced food from the area's farmers and ranchers.
As RVers, we travel to many exciting places, and the preparation and enjoyment of local foods can become a highlight of our travels.
The best local foods in season will be found at farmer's markets, farm stands, and U-Pick farms. You may find your meals getting more interesting as you try foods you've never tasted before. Check local chambers of commerce or tourism bureaus for a list of markets and farmers and ranchers that sell directly to the public, or online Google 'farmers market' and the location.
Ask the supermarket produce manager what fruits and vegetables come from local growers and buy those. Supermarket buyers have responded to the demand for local foods. You will be pleasantly surprised at the taste of right-off-the-farm fresh fruits and vegetables. And the bonus is that a local diet of fresh produce and meals made in your RV, eliminating a lot of processed foods containing fats, additives, and sugar, will do wonders for your waistline.
Buy local. Eat fresh. Not only will you be helping to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but also your taste buds will thank you for it.
Lisa Smith and James MacKinnon's book, Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally describes their efforts to gather all their food from within 100 miles of their Vancouver, BC apartment. http://www.100milediet.org./
Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma explores the balance between organic, local, vegetarian, and carnivores' options. www.michaelpollan.com/omnivore.php
|INTRODUCING - THE GREEN RVER - BY BOB DIFLEY|
June, 1 2007
Today's headlines warn of global warming, a melting arctic icepack, violent hurricanes, longer and more intense heat waves, skyrocketing fuel prices, and
dependence on foreign oil. From Fox News to John Stewart's The Daily Show you can expect to hear as much about our threatened atmosphere as on the war in Iraq. Gone are the good 'ol days of grass-fed horses and buggies, when people seldom traveled much beyond their own village, and news of the outside world was far less important than the price of corn.
No matter what your personal opinions might be on the causes or effects of global warming, the jury is no longer out, and the verdict is that all is not well on this sphere we call home. Temperatures around the globe are rising, due mainly to an accumulation of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Last year was the hottest on record in the US. 'Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) were 379 parts per million in 2005, higher than at any time in the past 650,000 years,' reports Time Magazine (Global Warming, What Now? April 9, 2007).
'Of the 12 warmest years on record, 11 occurred between 1995 and 2006.'
With Mother Earth complaining and throwing hissy fits about the way she is being treated, we need to take a serious look at the way we conduct our daily lives, including our RV Lifestyle, to determine first, whether we are contributing to the cause of Mother Earth's crankiness, and second, what we can do about it?
You can take this to the bank: the clamor to restrict anything that contributes to the concentration of greenhouse gasses will still be a hot-button issue long after many of us have hung up our wheels.
I would also bet that a sizeable number of the country's 78 million soon-toretire baby boomers' 350,000 turn 50 every month'are not about to give up their RV Lifestyle dreams of visiting our National Parks, exploring the national forests, or traveling to NASCAR races, state fairs, chili cook-offs, grandkids' birthday parties, and snowbird roosts in their shiny new homes-on-wheels. This Green RVer column, making its debut this month, will in the coming months offer tips on how we RVers can assist Mother Earth in her struggles by making environmentally responsible decisions, following effective reducing our contribution to greenhouse gasses, pollution, and landfill-destined waste. We are not going to suggest living in a cave and foraging on native grasses, but rather to look at ways in which we can continue to enjoy our great outdoor RV lifestyle without having to feel guilty about it, and without pain, without suffering, without angst, and without taking a hit to our quality of life'and without having to rob our children's inheritance to do it.
And the upside is that we will be able to bask in the fuzzy warm feeling of being part of a responsible RV community that is contributing to Mother Earth's solutions, and not to her problems.