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Earth Day: Reduce, reuse, recycle, replenish, restoreEarth Day is a good time to reflect upon how far we have come in protecting the environment since the first Earth Day in 1970, but also how far we have yet to go to save the planet in the face of global change.
Here at Smith Rock Farm, we try to do our part. We irrigate our hayfield, vegetable garden and xeriscaped landscape with efficient systems.
We have a permeable gravel driveway and green-built solar home. This was a considerable extra expense back in 2006 when we built, but prices for some of these materials have come down as they have become more widely used.
We have grid-tied solar panels that produce 100% of what we need; when we produce extra we are a supplier of green energy to the power company. Thanks to state and federal tax incentives and the Oregon Energy Trust, our investment in solar will be repaid four years from now. From then on our electricity is essentially free.
We have Dark Sky outdoor lighting to prevent light pollution.
We’ve switched most of our indoor and outdoor lighting to LED.
What are you doing for the environment? Visit http://www.earthday.org/takeaction/.

The Bullitt family has done a lot for the environment in the Northwest over the years. Their latest achievement is creating the Bullitt Center in Seattle as a building that is not just green but almost sustainable — capturing and purifying rain for water, covering the entire roof in PV panels, eschewing a parking garage in favor of bicycle storage and more. The New York Times has an interesting story about it. Be sure to click on “more photos” link to see all 13 photos showing its cool features.

The International Environmentally Friendly Vehicle Conference starts Monday in Baltimore.

The Honda Hit EV

The Honda Fit EV is one of the vehicles featured in next week’s International Environmentally Friendly Vehicle show in Baltimore, MD. Credit: Honda

In this slideshow you can see the featured vehicles. To see the photo captions, select full screen mode and click on the “Show info” link in the top right corner of the screen. Many thanks to my friend Gay MacGregor of the EPA for alerting me to this.

More evidence of Oregon’s green ways: The state Department of Transportation, Portland General Electric, and the Oregon State University Master Gardeners have collaborated on a solar highway project that features a huge solar array bordered by a community garden of waterwise plants.

I’m going to the Tour of Solar Homes today to see if I can discover new ways we can live more lightly on the planet. This year it’s free for the first time, a welcome development.

My next car? This 2009 Prius is for sale in Bend for $19,570.

Which is the greener choice, buying a new hybrid or continuing to drive your old car? The answer, of course, depends on what your old car is. If it’s a gas-guzzling clunker the decision is easy.

But my old car is a 1990 Acura Integra that gets about 33 miles a gallon (my commute is mostly highway). Although it’s nearing 190,000 miles, it still runs just fine and the mileage is darn good. So what’s the greener choice?

A new hybrid is not as green as it seems, because it takes energy and creates waste to build it. According to analyses done in Japan at Seikei University and at Toyota respectively, anywhere from 12 to 28 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions generated during the lifetime of a gas-powered car occur during its manufacture and transport to the dealer. Electric cars aren’t emission-free either, because you have to consider the impact of producing the electricity used when you plug it in. Although I am generating solar power in the daytime, I would be plugging in my car overnight when I’m drawing juice from Pacific Power.

My old car is already built, so it wins on the manufacturing emissions score. But what if I bought a used hybrid that’s also already built? The hybrid creates more emissions in manufacturing than my Integra did, but they’re both in the past. So going forward, how much would mileage improve with a hybrid and would that improvement reduce my carbon footprint significantly?

At fueleconomy.gov, there is great information to address exactly this question. The carbon footprint score for my Acura is 8.1 tons of carbon dioxide annually. The comparable number for a 2009 Prius is 4.1. So if I ditch the old car and buy the used 2009 Prius, do I keep those 4 tons out of the air? Only if I make sure my car is scrapped or sold for parts. If someone else keeps driving it, that doesn’t improve anything.

So let’s say I scrap the car and buy the 2009 Prius. I save emissions which is good for the planet. I save gas. But I spend $19K. For now I’m keeping my money in my pocket.

Thanks to Slow Food High Desert, I discovered this “Nightline” segment on a family who grows all their own food, keeps chickens and goats, harnesses solar power, recycles graywater and makes their own biodiesel — all on a regular-sized suburban lot in L.A. Watch this amazing video!

Summer solstice has me thinking about energy. Since our solar photovoltaic panels were installed Feb. 12, we have generated 1201 kilowatt hours, or 38% of our electric consumption. In addition, we’ve sold 188 kilowatt hours of excess power back to Pacific Power. And we have all our domestic hot water and much of our home heating from our
solar hot water panels. Our garage roof works hard.

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