Cider Press Hill


Wednesday, 2:42 pm

By Kate





Keurig coffee maker This is a coffee maker. It is named Keurig and it seems to be taking this area by storm—I can’t speak for other areas. But these things are popping up all over the place. There’s even one in the grocery store for customers who need a coffee fix. There’s one in my kitchen, too.

The Keurig is the most wonderful coffee maker in the world, I’m convinced. It also brews one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever tasted and only takes about 15 seconds to brew a mug of fresh, piping hot coffee. I mean hot coffee. There is nothing quite like an almost instant mug of delicious steaming coffee first thing in the morning.

It also solves the problem of figuring out how to keep an entire pot of coffee hot for the next eight hours. Not an issue now.

However, the Keurig is potentially one of the most environmentally irresponsible products on the market.

Each cup of coffee is brewed using one of these K-Cups. The number of K-Cup boxes lining the shelves in my grocery store is horrifying. There is also a local coffee vending company that almost exclusively trades in K-Cup products. They are doing a booming walk-in and mail-order business.

For the occasional at-home coffee drinker, K-Cups might possibly be excused. Nice for guests, too. But for those of us who swill coffee in quantity, they are horrible little plastic things. It’s just too bad that they work so well.

I figure, with my coffee intake, I’d end up with about 150 used K-Cups per month. For most people, those probably end up in the landfill. Imagine 150 K-Cups per month times a village of similarly dedicated K-Cup users. That’s a lot of plastic in the ground. And, of course, at about $11.00 per 24 K-Cups, that adds up to a sizeable amount of money every month for coffee.

After the first blush of thrilling delicious convenient coffee last month, my conscience started bothering me mightily (although I was relieved to discover these things are recyclable and they make excellent little pots for starting seeds). My checkbook wasn’t all that excited, either.

Enter the more environmentally responsible (and cost effective) solution—a reusable filter. Keurig at least tried to offer a mitigating product for the consumer. Their parent company, Green Mountain Coffee, has admitted that the K-Cups are a thorny little environmental problem for a company that has highly touted their social and environmental responsibility. I don’t, however, see K-Cups going away. They are kind of integral to the Keurig reason-for-being.

I ordered my reusable filter from Amazon and haven’t looked back. The thing works beautifully, despite the odd complaint in the Amazon reviews. Perhaps the gizmo has been re-engineered since the first reviews—not sure—but it has worked well for me every single time.  And I get to select my own favorite coffees at a fraction of the K-Cup price. I will say, though, that through my initial K-Cup experimentation, I discovered Green Mountain’s Nantucket Blend, which is one of my new favorite coffees. I can buy whole beans at the store and grind to my own specification.

Okay, so now my conscience doesn’t bother me. I love my Keurig coffee maker. Love. It.


Another reason to dump plastic bags

Friday, 1:55 pm

By Kate




light rain

I used to think it was a cynical view, but now I’m inclined to think it’s just reality—people, in general, aren’t going to conserve much unless their wallet is involved. Once in a while, there are pockets of what seem to be altruistic effort, but not very darned often.

Take, for example, the whole idea of replacing plastic shopping bags with reusable ones. I have to admit that I was surprised when my grocery store began pushing them...hard. They had a bunch of attractive bags printed up with the store logo and nice little environmental graphics and quotes and sayings. The store bought boatloads of the bags and they have been offering them at the head of every checkout counter and in a special display smack in the middle of the wide aisle leading up to the checkout counters. Can’t miss ‘em. Now they even offer bags in designer colors without any graphics at all.

And this push for reusable bags has been very recent. What’s the deal?

I ran across a Reuters article on Yahoo yesterday that explained it all.

The cost of these plastic shopping bags is killing the merchants. They are getting really, really expensive. With the price of oil skyrocketing, plastic is much more expensive to produce and the bag producers not only have to pay the rising costs for the plastic, the energy costs of production are soaring, as are the costs of transporting the finished products. They pass the cost along.

Grocery stores use a lot of plastic bags in a day. The figure given in the above article suggests a price of about $28 per 1000 bags. That’s a much higher figure than even a year ago. With the costs of store overhead and shipping rising dramatically, the rising cost of plastic bags is just one more financial stressor for the merchants. And it’s probably the easiest one to address.

Out of curiosity, I googled a search many plastic bags does a grocery store use in a day?

WikiAnswers offered this bit of back of the envelope figuring for a 5 checkout counter retail store (probably smaller than an average supermarket):

From 7am to 9pm we consider it all busy hours and on average 2 minutes a person on each cash counter, that means 840 minutes/2 mins per customer = 420 customers, per counter, during these hours and if they use 2 bags each that means 840 bags each cash counter and 5 counter means 4200 bags.

From 9pm to 7am in non busy hours and on average 10 minutes a person that means 600mins/10 mins per customer=60 customers each counter. 5 counters x 60 customers each = 300 customers carrying one bag each 4200 bags+300 bags=4500 bags a day!!!

But that is a very low estimate, in starting days of month people carry up to 5 bags per person easily. You can add another 3000 bags to it to be more accurate so 4500+3000=7500 bags a day.

So, based on the example given, I’d calculate that my grocery store probably uses somewhere between 7,500-10,000 bags per day. And that may even be a low estimate.

At $28 per 1000 bags, the cost of providing us with those free plastic bags conservatively comes out to around $210-$280 per day or $1470-$1960 per week per store. The weekly cost for a chain with many stores increases rather briskly.

So, yeah. I can see why my grocery store is pushing reusable bags for all they are worth. They can sell us “green” bags and tout their environmental concern and green status, but I think I’d win a wager betting on less altruistic concerns. But who can blame them? Regardless of their motives, reusable bags are a win-win solution.

I have noticed lately, that the stores I visit are happy to see my reusable bag(s). If I stop in at a store to make a small purchase, I’m usually asked if I want a plastic bag. They don’t offer to give me one anymore, without asking first. For a very small purchase, I simply walk out of the store carrying the small purchase in my hand or stick it in my backpack. And that’s a-okay with them. There was a time when that idea would have been completely discouraged. Times change and the wallet rules.


Klean Kanteen

Wednesday, 5:59 pm

By Kate





This afternoon my brand new Klean Kanteen arrived in the mail. It’s a stainless steel water bottle, very light weight. Klean Kanteens come in a variety of sizes from 12 oz. to 40 oz. And with a variety of different tops. You can mix and match. For the time being, Klean Kanteens only come in the brushed stainless finish. I read someplace that, this summer, they’ll also be offered in a bunch of different colors.

So, why did I buy a stainless steel water bottle? Well, I don’t do plastic disposable/recyclable water bottles any more. The water in them turns out to be not much better than public tap water; sometimes it actually is tap water and its processing is regulated less stringently than the municipal water supplies. And I don’t like the plastic bottles.

Plastic bottles require enormous amounts of resources in their manufacture for, usually, one time use. Then they end up in the trash, more often than not. I mentioned, once before, that after one our blockbuster coastal storms a couple of years ago, there was a park downtown that was literally covered with plastic water bottles, three or four deep, and the coverage extended several hundred feet in all directions. They were, apparently, dredged up out of the roiling water and left on land after the water receded. It was utterly shocking to see. And that was just one little park in one little town. Even if every last person who uses them were to recycle the bottles, we’d still waste enormous amounts of resources in their manufacture and again in their recycling. We don’t have the luxury of infinite resources to waste on something so unnecessary.

What I like about the Klean Kanteen, of course, is that it is reusable. And the one I bought, 18oz, is just the right size for my hands. It is also manufactured without any traces of lead which can show up in poorer quality stainless steel. The Klean Kanteen’s stainless steel is food grade...the kind used in breweries, food processing, and dairies. It doesn’t leach icky stuff like other cheaper grades of stainless steel or plastic. And mine weighs about 6 oz, so it’s easy to lug around. It won’t wear out and it won’t break if I drop it. Also dishwasher safe, if you do the dishwasher thing.

I bought mine on Amazon for $15 (took advantage of free shipping). It should last the rest of my life. I really like my little water bottle. I’ll probably grab another when they come out with colors this summer. Then I can leave one in the fridge to cool while I’m guzzling from the other one. My doctor informed me, last week, that I’d be doing myself a favor if I’d drink more water—somewhere between 60 and 72 ounces per day. Keeps the pipes and plumbing happy. So that’s what...about 4 refills in my Klean Kanteen per day. Easy to count, easy to do, and environmentally and people friendly. Good deal.

Incidentally....the weatherman lied again. We never managed to crawl much above 56° today. The breeze came in right off the ocean so it felt pretty chilly out there. If not for the bright sunshine, it would have been downright cold. Still, I managed to accomplish a few things. It wasn’t nearly as much fun as if the day had been warm, though. No windows or doors were opened today. And I still had my scarf wrapped around my neck. Real spring will arrive eventually. I keep hoping.


Just call me Suzie Sunshine

Saturday, 1:45 pm

By Kate





One of the things I love about reading The Oil Drum is that it keeps me constantly mindful of the things we face and our determined march toward the edge of the cliff. One of the frequent posters over there uses the tagline -- Are humans smarter than yeast? It's kind of become the standing joke and the best of black humor as the earth's systems disintegrate around us while its inhabitants consume their way over the edge of the cliff.

Well, they do try to keep us from jumping off the nearest roof with some glimmers of hope, of course.

Once again, California comes up with an interesting idea. On October 20, San Francisco will go dark for an hour, between 8:00 and 9:00 PM. The Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz, City Hall, and other parts of the city will go dark to push (and illustrate) their campaign to conserve energy. It is clearly a public relations moment, but it's also an everyone-is-in-this-together moment. It's actions over words. They're also handing out free CFL bulbs and urging everyone to shut off everything except a necessary light or two during that hour. It's a teaching moment and, I'm sure, there will be a substantial energy savings during that one hour. But it's a brilliant idea.

This is one of the first incidences I've run into where the word conserving is used unapologetically. The underlying message is that we use too much and we need to shut stuff off. But they're creating a campaign that's fresh and cheerful and Bravo!

But, lest we forget....

Climate change is worse than we feared. Time is running out. The fallout from climate change is much more complex and interconnected than most of us realize. When I start reading about the chain of events that result from global warming, it makes me gulp. The time line keeps moving up as scientists learn more. We're talking about things going sour within my lifetime now. Somebody -- lots of somebodies - had better start doing something about it. But it's a herculean task to get people and governments motivated.

And for more just absolutely cheerful (not!) news on the subject, we have this grim outlook.

The effects of climate change will be felt sooner than scientists realised and the world must learn to live with the effects, experts said today.

Professor Martin Parry, a climate scientist with the Met Office, said destructive changes in temperature, rainfall and agriculture were now forecast to occur several decades earlier than thought.

He said vulnerable people such as the old and poor would be the worst affected, and that world leaders had not yet accepted their countries would have to adapt to the likely consequences.

They're no longer talking about if global warming will take place. They're talking about it as a matter-of-fact occurrence now and also talking about how we're going to have to adapt and what we're going to adapt to. Not to mention that there are a few billion of us who won't make it. No water, no life. No crops, no food. Some places will be far worse than others. The choices we have now are whether we're going to mitigate the damages and contain them or continue on our merry way until we consume our way into extinction. They're now talking about 2020 for effects to become really dire for a good portion of the planet.

So. Are we smarter than yeast?

Told you, I'm Suzie Sunshine today.


Cold, CSA's, Attitudes, and Girls

Wednesday, 11:01 am

By Kate





Today is cold again. A mere 51° F. I’m dressed to the teeth in layers. When I stopped to get gasoline this morning, there was a fellow on the other side of the pump wearing a summery short sleeved peach cotton shirt. He rubbed his hands together and said, “There’s a cool sea breeze this morning.”

“Yeah, it’s cold, isn’t it?,” I said. My teeth were on the verge of chattering.

“Oh, I like it,” he said. “This is ideal weather.”

Who am I to tell him what’s ideal. Sure isn’t for me, but he looked happy and warm in his summery short sleeved shirt.


“Believe me, Wednesday is closer to Friday than you think.”

Words of encouragement from a WBUR (NPR) radio announcer during the summer fundraiser. Dunno why, but it made me laugh.


Happy discovery! After running across the term “CSA” several times in the last couple of days, I finally did a Google search and learned that the abbreviation stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Across this country (and the world) there are a growing number of small farms that are community supported by subscription paying members who are entitled to a share of the harvests each growing season. Most of the farms, I believe, follow sustainable farming practices. Some are certified organic, while others haven’t gone through the certification process, but, for all intents and purposes, are organic or are transitioning to organic practices. There is one practically in my back yard called Long Hill Farm. I didn’t even know they existed until yesterday. I’ll go out sometime in the next few days to see what they’re all about. They also have a farm stand for those who choose not to buy a subscription. It’s a good idea, though. The subscription fees assure the farms of a reliable income to put into seeds, equipment maintenance, labor and other operating expenses. The produce is fresher, more wholesome, and less expensive than supermarket produce. You can find out if there is a CSA Farm near you.


I stumbled over a new blog last night called No Impact Man. It’s a blog about a man, his wife, and small daughter who live in New York City. They have embarked on a no impact lifestyle which includes no trash, no household electricity, no vehicles, no mail order, and etc. He’s a professional writer and his blog reflects it. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes serious, and engaging all the way through. I started from the beginning (February 2007) and read all the way through last night. He and his wife have embarked on an experimental year of leaving little to no footprint on earth while living in the city. It’s not an experiment for the faint of heart. But they seem to be really into it and it’s fascinating to see how someone else manages to do, with a sense of humor, what the rest of us think we couldn’t possibly do and might actually perish if we did.

What interests me, beyond what he says and does, are some of the hostile responses that their experiment has generated in his blog comments. There really is something about extreme actions for laudable reasons, that sets people off. Maybe it yanks them out of their comfort zones or something? Does it make people feel threatened? I don’t understand the response. Some of the attitudes range from you are nuts and I hate you to you think you’re so hot, but here’s where you’re not pure, so you’re a stinking fraud.

You think you have a basic grasp of humanity, and then you run across something like this. It is a curious dynamic, to be sure.


The lad and I have had a couple of discussions about women this past week. My simple advice to him was “Girls are complicated. Get used to it.” I presume many women would find that offensive, but after having watched him navigate the waters of feminine behavior, I am truly convinced that guys’ brains simply do not work anything like a girl’s. It’s an interesting perspective for me. I have actually learned a lot about male thought processes from observing and talking with the lad. Girls want guys to think like girls and it isn’t ever gonna happen. Expecting that to happen is what creates complications.

A couple of nights ago, one of lad’s female friends came over with another female friend. She wanted to discuss relationships. In particular, her ex-relationship with the lad’s best friend. Those are dicey waters, I said. Be careful.

His first mistake was telling her that he didn’t want to get in the middle of their relationship woes because he likes them both and he didn’t want to choose sides. Which was evidence that he had already taken sides or else he’d talk with her about it.

Didn’t he know that they’d been deeply in love?

His second mistake was saying, “No.”

What did he mean, no?  Was she that unimportant that he and his best friend never discussed her?

In the interest of being direct, he said, “Well, basically, yeah. We mentioned you then watched movies and ate pizza.”

What did he mean that he just mentioned her and then ate pizza? Wasn’t she his friend, too? Didn’t he care about her feelings?

Feeling a little desperate, he told her that her relationship with his best friend wasn’t his business. If his friend was happy, he assumed everything was fine. And frankly he wasn’t all that interested in knowing the intimate details.

Intimate details? You mean you talk about that?

She burst into loud sobs. (Boy, were they loud.)

Her friend said, “Oh, now you’ve done it.”

They trundled down the stairs and out the front door.

The lad came down and said, “Well, I don’t think I’ll be seeing her for the rest of the summer. I put my foot in it and hurt her really badly. She said our friendship was over and she never wanted to see me again.” He felt pretty sad.

Last evening the lad’s cell phone rang. Shortly after, he came in and said, “You know when you told me girls are complicated? Well, A just invited me over to her house to watch movies. I don’t get it.”

He went and had a great time. They’re good buds again. He still doesn’t understand it. What’s kind of alarming is that I do.


90 Percent Project - Week 1

Monday, 12:22 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

I’ve completed my first week of the 90 Percent Project. Actually, I’m into day 3 of the second week, but it took me a couple of days to figure out my bookkeeping methods. Below are the values from my first week. They aren’t too bad, really. Much room for improvement, but that’s what the next year is about. Most of all I want it to be fun and interesting. I’m not into living like an ascetic, but I do recognize that I still consume way too much. I am interested in discovering ways to have a good life and a fun one, too, without being a prodigal consumer of precious resources. Fun is important. I think fun can also be pretty inexpensive, both in terms of resources and dollars.

US Average: 11,000 kWh per household per year (avg. of 900 kWh per month, 211 kWh per week)
Week 1:  63 56 kWh (I counted wrong the first time)
The goal is 21-25 kWh per week.

US average: 500 gallons per person per year, 41.6 per month, 9.6 per week)
Week 1: 16.5 gallons (for two people)
My figures in this category are gallons purchased per week.

US average: 100 gallons per person per day, 700 gallons per week)
Week 1:  262.36 gallons (for two people)
The goal would be 140 gallons per week for two people.

Natural Gas
US Average: 1000 therms per household per year
Week 1: Don’t know yet, the meter is really hard to get to. Will wait for monthly bill. Probably won’t like what I see, either.

US Weekly Average: 31.5 pounds per person per week, 4.5 pounds per person per day)
Week 1: 12 pounds (for two people)
Yes, I weighed my trash.

Consumer Goods
US Average: $10,000 spent annually on items like gifts, toys, music, books, magazines, newspapers, tools, household goods, cosmetics, toiletries, paper goods.
Week 1: Total: $44.15: $27.98 (Kill-A-Watt), $16.17 (Barbara Kingsolver’s book: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life)
Goal is $1000 per year, with trading or buying used goods counting for anywhere from 20% to 0% of value or total spent in the consumer goods purchasing category. I’m not off to a good start. This is also going to be a challenge. I’ve joined FreeCycle.

The idea, of course, is that purchasing brand new consumer goods represents a lot of natural resources used in the item’s manufacture, plus the gasoline or diesel required to transport it from factory, to warehouse, to store, to consumer. (And, also, keeping as much stuff out of the landfill as possible.)

I haven’t spent enough time to figure out exactly how the food category works, other than the broad outline of buying locally (or eating from one’s own garden) as much as possible. I didn’t grocery shop this week. Just purchased the few local items at the farmer’s market. That’s a step in the right direction. I don’t know how to categorize what the lad eats while at work (which is where he is 8-12 hours a day). I suppose he’s to be added into the equation while he’s living under my roof during vacations, even when he’s not here. Some of the food prepared there is local produce, but I don’t know about the rest of the food. I will be planting some stuff this week, but not even close to a sustainable living type of garden. Every little bit helps. This will probably be my most challenging category. Eating locally is a *lot* harder than it should be.

Initially borrowed through the library, I found Barbara Kingsolver’s book (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) an excellent How To in eating locally, month by month. The book started from scratch and followed a year in their life of building a sustainable food network. It has a ton of useful information, so I’ve purchased it. I expect to have it dog-eared in no time.


Page 1 of 3 pages  1 2 3 >