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Carbon Dioxide

Paint It White

White Rooftops Bermuda

Summer is nearly upon us in the Northern Hemisphere and for city dwellers and suburbanites (like my family) summer brings the 'Heat Island Effect'. The sub/urban Heat Island is the result of acres of black-tar roofs and dark asphalt absorbing solar energy during the day and radiating that heat out late into the night. It turns out there is a simple way to turn off the Heat Island - Paint it White.

A Thermostat That's Smarter by Half

Albert Einstein

Last fall I installed a 'smarter' thermostat as our old bimetal thermostat had started short-cycling the furnace. A local hardware store had a sale on programmable thermostats for $25, and I installed one that day. Within a day or two I had the thermostat programmed to our preferences and I haven't touched it since. The one question remaining - is the new 'smart' thermostat more energy efficient than the old 'dumb' one?

I can happily say that the new programmable thermostat IS more energy efficient!

The Map Moved Under My Feet

2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map for New Mexico

Did you feel that? It felt like the earth moved under my feet. Actually, it was a shift in climate, as marked by the 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. The PHZM (Plant Hardiness Zone Map) is the guide gardeners use to decide what plants will likely grow, or not, in our yards. The 2012 version of the PHZM shows that the hardiness zone lines have shifted for most of the U.S. My home has shifted from Hardiness Zone 5b (1990 map) and is now solidly in Hardiness Zone 6b (2012 map) which is 10°F. warmer.

Tiny House vs. McMansion

I clearly remember wanting a room of my own as a teenager. I settled for a room in the finished basement of our family home. Austin Hay of Santa Rosa, CA has gone well beyond my teenage aspirations and is building his own Tiny House. As Austin tours his 130 sq. foot home built on a double axle trailer he notes that it is less space to clean and will have a small carbon footprint. Austin's Tiny House brings up a question, 'How big a home does a person need?'

Embrace the Sweat

Riding in the heat of summer sometimes means 'embracing the sweat'. But, there are ways to reduce your exposure to record-breaking heat. Cycling early or later in the day, stay well hydrated, and slowing your pace will help you keep cooler. Wear well-ventilated, wicking clothes in light colors, and bring a change of clothes when bike commuting. Acclimatizing to heat will also help your comfort and performance as you bike through the summer.

Burning Ring of Fire

Las Conchas Wildfire Smoke Plume

Are large and frequent wildfires in the Western U.S. becoming the 'New Normal'? That's an unsettling thought, but new research and recent experience point to a smokier future in the West. The basics are this: 100 years of fire suppression have created overly dense forests, and climate change and drought encourage hotter and larger wildfires.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (and Bicycles)

Southwest Chief - Lamy, NM Train Station

The Iron Horse (aka. train) shaped much of the modern Western US. Despite that history, most of us now travel long distances by car or plane because of the supposed convenience. I've flown and driven across the country countless times, so I wanted to try something new. For a trip from Santa Fe, NM to Kansas City, MO I traveled by bicycle and passenger train. The trip went smoothly and was much lower carbon than either automobile or passenger jet. I'm now a fan of train travel and hope that train travel in the U.S. can be improved.

Oh Poop! Part Deux

Diapered Baby Bottom

Part of the fun of becoming a new parent are the inevitable byproducts of your little bundle of joy. Among the multitude of questions that parents-to-be are asked (Boy or Girl?, Have you picked out a name?, Are you ready?!?!) is "Will you use disposable or cloth diapers?" Like everything else connected to children that question seems to be complex and quite important.

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