Category Archives: green living

Green Living: Climate’s Magic Pill, Steve Waller

green living, climate change, climate support

Heat domes, temperature records, droughts, wildfires, smoky UP air from Canadian fires. On June 29th Lytton, British Columbia (near Vancouver, BC) recorded an all-time Canadian record high temperature of 49.6°C (121 °F). Then, the next day, that town burned in a wildfire! People were evacuated. Some died.

Is this our new normal? When will it end? Likely not in your lifetime. Humans haven’t figured out how to renounce fossil fuel, but have invented a magic pill that, like aspirin, ignores the problem but relieves the symptoms—air conditioning. As the climate changes, areas that rarely used AC before, such as the U.P., are now rushing to beat the heat by installing AC. But read this first!

We are living more like human dairy products, in refrigerated spaces behind closed doors, protected from the overheated environment. We go from refrigerated houses to refrigerated cars to refrigerated workplaces, then a quick stop at a refrigerated store on the way home.

The magic AC pill comes in two colors: Blue (conventional AC) and red (heat pumps).

Blue pill (conventional AC): Cools your house using more electricity. The blue pill makes you feel physically better, but the additional electricity generates more CO2, making the global problem worse!

Red pill (heat pump): Cools your house using more electricity, but the heat pump supplement for your furnace can also heat your house for much of the cool weather seasons as well as heat hot water. It generates more CO2 during hot weather, like AC, yes, but less CO2 in colder weather. Total annual CO2 is significantly less. Here’s why:

AC doesn’t “create cold.” It simply moves heat from inside your house to the outside. Refrigerators move heat from inside the fridge to the kitchen, making the fridge cooler and the kitchen warmer.

Home heat pumps can pump (move) heat either way. In summer, they move heat outside, exactly like AC. In cool weather, heat pumps run the AC backwards, moving heat from outside back inside, even at freezing outdoor temperatures or slightly below.

Heat pumps can heat your home while generating less CO2 than oil, gas, even electric furnaces. Heat pumps use much less energy because they just move heat to where you want it, outside or inside.

But there is a problem. HVAC contractors spend a lot of time talking people out of getting heat pumps. Heat pumps are not what they are accustomed to, so they discourage them in favor of their favorites—fossil heat and traditional AC. That locks customers into another thirty years of fossil fuels. Boo. Bad. We must move away from fossil energy. Electricity is slowly getting cleaner. Fossils never will. We must go all-electric.

Contractors will claim that heat pumps won’t work because there’s little heat to move at -30˚F. That’s true and that’s why I suggest the red pill as a supplement. On those -30˚F days, use fossils if you must. But the rest of the time, with the help of your thermostat or control system, you can use the heat pump.

There is a special cold weather heat pump option–ground-source heat pumps (GSHPs). Ground below the frost line doesn’t freeze. GSHPs can capture enough heat for your house most of the winter. Back-up is only needed on the absolute coldest days. GSHPs cost significantly more but eliminate fossils.

When it comes to home heating, especially if we end up with a carbon tax, as I believe we will, heat pumps are our best solution. We need young HVAC heat pump specialists to start new businesses providing the expertise and equipment needed to install heat pumps cost efficiently, to out-compete stubborn fossil contractors stuck in the fossil fuel era. It’s the smart move.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Excerpted from the Fall 2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under green living

Green Living: U.P. Style Re-Creation, Steve Waller

green living, green recreation, sustainable recreation in MI's Upper Peninsula, U.P. holistic business, U.P. wellness publication

The COVID freeze is thawing. We are waking from a yearlong hibernation, anxious for “normal,” ready to get back to work, enjoy family, friends, and summer fun. Life is restarting. Summer recreation can re-create our lifestyle and for many, lifestyle re-creation would be helpful.

The American Psychological Association’s latest “Stress in America” survey of 3,000 people indicates that since the pandemic began, about 42 percent of U.S. adults gained weight—29 pounds on average. About half of the weight-gainers added more than 15 pounds; 10 percent, more than 50 pounds. On average, men added 37 lbs., women added 22 pounds. Younger adults gained more than older people (millennials 41 pounds, baby boomers 16 pounds). Only 18 percent reported unwanted weight loss. Stress, lack of exercise, unhealthy changes in eating habits, and increased alcohol consumption are all contributing factors.

It’s time to get outside, but being dragged around by a gas-powered ATV, boat, jet ski, dirt bike, motorcycle. or even an automobile won’t help you get back in shape. Recreational gas burning burns gas, not calories. It increases your personal contribution to the global warming problem, not your metabolism. It’s time to re-create your idea of recreation.

U.P. forest trails, some of the best in the nation, are ready for hikers, talking with friends, without noisy gas burning ATVs.

Trails seem much longer, more peaceful, relaxing, and more interesting when on foot. As John Muir, the famous 19th century naturalist, said about his 1,000-mile walk to the Gulf (instead of traveling by train or stagecoach), “How can you see anything when you travel 40 miles in a day?”

Streets are ready for bicyclists running local errands instead of running gas-burning automobiles. Electric bicycles are waiting in local bike shops for those with 10 to 15-mile daily commutes to work, or for a couple of hours of awesome trail riding. Two wheels roar. Four wheels snore!

Swimming is healthy and fun. Snorkeling the U.P.’s clear-water lakes is fascinating. Even sailboats are better exercise. Noisy gas-burning boats or jet skis won’t get that beach body back in shape.

Besides, after a two-year study, the Michigan governor’s recent U.P. Energy Task Force report clearly states that we, all of us, must move away from fossil fuels.

The easy first step is to eliminate recreational gas burning and get healthier at the same time. It’s a win-win!Even converting gas-powered yard tools, mowers (including riding mowers), trimmers, and blowers to battery power reduces stress on your ears, eliminates gasoline, and minimizes fossil-powered pollution. Today, battery-powered tools are versatile workhorses that help you spend more time outdoors, peacefully.

After a 2020 dip in carbon dioxide emissions due to COVID-19, CO2 emissions are forecast to jump this year by the second biggest annual rise in history as people and global economies recover from the pandemic’s recession. Our “new normal” could easily just repeat the old toxic normal. Now is the time to start fresh with smarter habits and less fossil fuel.

Once you’ve paid your bills, put COVID relief money to good use. Don’t blow it on another couch-potato TV, cable or video game subscription. Cancel those subscriptions. Invest that money and freed time in gas-free products and activities. It’s time to dump that gas guzzler and buy an electric car. Install solar power. Replace gas furnaces and water heaters with a cold weather-rated, high-efficiency heat pump.

Explore the U.P. Keep our land, our air, and yourself in great shape. Re-create that pre-COVID body naturally by abandoning recreational gas burning, and physically enjoying the beautiful local places where we live.

Sources:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/the-big-number-a-major-pandemic-weight-gain/2021/04/16/cc347e3e-9dfd-11eb-9d05-ae06f4529ece_story.html
https://www.healthline.com/health-news/61-percent-of-americans-say-they-gained-weight-during-the-pandemic
https://www.michigan.gov/documents/egle/Report-UPETF-Phase-II_720856_7.pdf
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/20/carbon-emissions-to-soar-in-2021-by-second-highest-rate-in-history

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Excerpted with permission from the Summer 2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under green living

Green Living: Shopping for Values, Steve Waller

Life has changed, more than just COVID. Old values face new challenges—climate, rural flight (urbanization), jobs and energy. Like COVID, these won’t go away unless we do something. A technological solution has risen from obscurity and matured. It is finally the best economic choice, but it requires new values and attitudes.

Solar is the solution, not just for the homes and businesses of those who can afford it, but also for utilities serving the rest of us who can’t afford it or who rent. Solar has many good points, but there are tradeoffs that question and challenge old,outdated values.

Homeowners who install solar commit to something that neighbors may not be ready to accept. Solar homeowners willingly invest in what they already had (electricity) but value being cleaner and not making the challenges listed above worse. They save money and increase their home value while simultaneously giving doubting neighbors the unexpected gift of stabilized electricity prices and a cleaner environment. Neighbors who see solar working cleanly, silently, effectively, and reliably change their outdated resistance.

The cost for residential solar is about the price of a moderate car except cars need constant refueling, insurance, maintenance, and are pretty much dead after ten years, while solar panels are very much alive, and doubling or eventually tripling the initial investment. A car is an expense, not an investment. Cars never return their original cost.

Two cars cost twice as much for ten years. Two solar panels return twice as much for more than twenty-five years. Solar is an effortless, secure, tax-free, inflation-proof investment, not an expense. To say someone can’t afford solar is saying they don’t have a 401K because they have to put money into the account. If you don’t invest, you don’t get the profit.

Utility grade solar (thousands of solar panels grouped together) should not be taken lightly because there are tradeoffs that challenge old values while offering important new benefits.

Utility solar effortlessly converts all grid-tied customers (resistant households, low-income households, businesses, mines, factories, farms, entire towns) to clean instead of dirty power. New utility solar is now officially the least expensive electricity available, less expensive than natural gas. Grid-tied customers pay less with solar energy. Local communities benefit from tax revenue generated by utility solar panels. Solar stabilizes electricity cost (no fuel price hikes). Solar storage strongly reduces the need for old, expensive, dirty power plants.

U.P. Facts: Solar panels output more power in our cold weather.

The backs of “bifacial” solar panels collect additional energy from sunlight reflected from snow. Solar “trackers” tilt panels for maximum output during the high summer sun or the low winter sun,and also help shed snow.

Utility tradeoff: Thousands of utility solar panels cover hundreds or maybe thousands of acres of rural land. Most see those panels as a needed improvement. Others aren’t ready to see their landscape change. The value of clean solar energy has to outweigh the value of a view for a few. Solar panels prevent much more CO2 than trees can capture. Without solar, our electricity increases CO2, warms earth, and kills wildlife.

Solar brings clean, stable, badly needed, long-term, non-toxic power, tax revenue, and jobs to rural job-starved areas, and benefits the entire region. Utilities must be pushed to build solar farms faster, and residents must value some acreage being safely and economically converted to clean energy.

Give the gift that values our entire generation and kids, brings badly needed resources to local communities, and protects the environment (climate, air, water, and wildlife). Become a vocal supporter of clean solar energy.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Excerpted with permission from the Winter 2020-2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under green living

Green Living: Women Changing the World, Steve Waller

women activists, green living, U.P. wellness publication, U.P. holistic business

Ordinary, caring people who think clearly, express themselves logically, and communicate effectively are actively shaping our future. They view the big picture, including future generations, and recognize actions we have to take today to improve tomorrow. They rarely start out with privilege and authority. They mostly start just with passion and determination. Maybe it’s you, or your neighbor.

That’s how women such as Naomi Klein, Vandana Shiva, Naomi Oreskes, Winona LaDuke, and Erin Brockovich became recognized and powerful. Because of them, our lives are better.

It isn’t always facts and figures that persuade.

It’s style and relationships. How and to whom you communicate is often more effective than what you communicate. It’s knowing how to say something, how to get through a preconception or bias that makes the difference. Gentle persuasion can lift a very heavy stone. Compassion, not just for your subject, but for your partner, friend, and neighbor, keeps doors of communication open.

But…One individual cannot possibly make a difference, alone. It is individual efforts, collectively, that makes a noticeable difference—all the difference in the world! — Dr. Jane Goodall

For change to actually happen, effort needs to be collective, shaping views for a wide audience.

Share and garner support. Become collective. An excellent example is Greta Thunberg.

Greta Thunberg, a seventeen-year-old Swedish environmental activist, got started after convincing her parents to reduce their own carbon footprint. For two years, Thunberg challenged her parents to lower the family’s environmental impact. She tried showing them graphs and data, but when that did not work, she warned her family they were stealing her future. Giving up flying in part meant her mother had to give up her international career as an opera singer.

Thunberg credits her parents’ eventual changes with giving her hope and belief she could make a difference. The family story is recounted in the 2020 book Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis.

climate activism, women activists, green living, U.P. wellness publication, U.P. holistic business

n 2018, at age fifteen, Greta spent school days outside the Swedish parliament holding a sign reading “School strike for climate.” Soon, ordinary young people organized a school climate strike movement called “Fridays for Future.”

Thunberg’s youth and straightforward speaking in public to political leaders and assemblies criticizes world leaders for their failure on the climate crisis. In 2019, multiple coordinated multi-city protests included over a million students each. To avoid flying, Thunberg sailed to North America where she attended the U.N. Climate Action Summit. Her exclamation “How dare you?” was widely featured by the press. Thunberg has inspired what is called “The Greta Effect.” All this has come from a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome, which Greta calls “my super-power.”

Rachel Carson (1907-1964) was an American marine biologist and author. In the 1950s, she focused on conservation and problems she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. She and her classic book Silent Spring (1962) were met with fierce opposition by chemical companies. Her book eventually spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides. It inspired a movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Rachel Carson Prize, an international environmental award established in Norway, commemorates her achievements and awards women who distinguished themselves in outstanding environmental work.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. — Rachel Carson

You don’t have to be special. You have to become special.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Excerpted with permission from the Fall 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under green living

Green Living: A New Normal, Steve Waller

green living, sustainability and covid 19, new green normal, U.P. holistic business, U.P. wellness publication

Before rushing to return to normal, we should first rush to define it.

Was the old normal proper, healthy, and right, or should we consider a new, better normal? Mother Nature just pushed “restart” on our society and economy. Should we reboot to the same operating system, or install an upgrade?

While we were social distancing, we were unintentionally forced to recognize what is “critical infrastructure” and what is not. Family, friends, and neighbors are critical. Health care and all that supports it is critical. Food and all that is needed to grow, process, and deliver it is critical. Energy, water and sewer are critical; apparently, so is toilet paper! Schooling is critical but classrooms less so. Workers in these fields all risked personal safety for our good.

Conversely, we were unwillingly forced to recognize non-critical activities, events and entertainments that when prohibited, albeit grudgingly, reduced our travel, cut our expenses and put us back in our homes. Those prohibitions taught us to be more domestic—cooking, pursuing hobbies, music, spending time with family, exercising frugality—and offered the chance to discover what quality time involves. Many workers of non-critical infrastructure became involuntarily unemployed, greatly complicating their lives, adding unwanted stress and complications.

There were unexpected consequences to this global realignment.

Traffic congestion worldwide disappeared. Airplanes stopped flying. Non-critical factories stopped burning fuel and creating waste. Major urban areas, notorious for terrible air quality, quickly became clear. Residents of Punjab India could see the Dhauladhar mountain peaks, over 120 miles away, not sighted from Punjab for almost 30 years. Nitrous dioxide from Chinese factories decreased drastically. Air pollution in Seattle and Los Angeles plummeted.

The 2020 crisis could trigger a 5.5% annual fall in CO2 emissions, the largest ever, more than during any previous economic crisis or period of war, yet still not close to avoiding the global temperature limit. Global emissions need to fall by 7.6% every year this decade to limit warming to less than 1.5 C. 2020 demonstrates only a sample of what needs to be done.

It’s as if Mother Nature finally found a way, after many years of failed subtle hints, to very seriously get our global attention. She got us, at least temporarily, to stop the non-critical things that corrode the air, water, and global temperature. She showed us that supporting critical infrastructure while inhibiting non-critical infrastructure (or substituting something better) actually achieves many of the necessary changes that can resuscitate our long-abused critical and warming biological life support system.

It’s time to re-evaluate “normal.”

We need to shift non-critical jobs to critical-sustainable. We need to re-employ in fields that maintain healthy environments, non-toxic infrastructures that keep our air and water clean, and our globe stable.

The new normal needs to encourage wind power, solar, and the Super Grid, not fight it. Restored jobs need to shift toward sustainable infrastructure, not inefficient and unnecessary excess. Air travel is non-critical. Travel needs to be less and cleaner. We need new rail and to buy more electric passenger vehicles. These create critical jobs, including maintenance, sales, service, communication, planning, material moving, construction, coordination, purchasing, security, all the fields that were lost in the “old normal” non-critical fields. Now is the time to upgrade to better.

If we don’t learn, don’t change, and successfully return to the old corrosive normal, will Mother Nature try again, more drastically yet? I wouldn’t put it past her. Orgel’s second rule states “Evolution is cleverer than you are.” Mother Nature has successfully managed life on earth for over three billion years. People who say “Evolution can’t do this” or “Evolution can’t do that” are simply lacking imagination.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Excerpted with permission from the Summer 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC.

Leave a comment

Filed under green living

E-Bikes—Ride the Revolution! Steve Waller

green living, e-bikes, U.P. holistic wellness publication, U.P. holistic business

With a lithium battery and an electric motor, conventional bicycles become e-bikes, putting people with lots of excuses back in the saddle. Crank the pedals, the motor comes to life. The harder you pedal, the bigger the power boost. It’s easy. It’s fun! Europeans love e-bikes. Americans are finally gearing up.

All-terrain and road e-bike motors are limited to 750 watts (1 horsepower) so e-bikers can gain the power of a horse–you become a centaur with gears! No hill is too steep. No workplace is too far (20-50-mile range). No shower at work is no excuse because you won’t break a sweat unless you want to. E-bikes silently push you, almost pollution-free, with no more effort than an exercise bike on low.

Run errands. Haul groceries or schoolbooks. Add a bike rack, backpack, panniers, or trailer. The e-bike does the heavy lifting. You just ride. Get outside. Experience organic air conditioning. Joy ride on two wheels instead of four. Let fresh springtime air perfume your hair. Parking is free!

E-bikes cost more (about $2,500 on up, depending on options) because you get more. The bike is beefier to support the motor and horsepower. Battery and charger is included ($650 value). Fenders, LED lights, and digital displays are often included. Bluetooth is optional. Get healthier. Buy less gasoline. Minimize car miles and expensive repairs. That’s all worth something.

Michigan law defines e-bikes in three classes:

Class 1 – Provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to function at 20 mph. No minimum age, no helmet required.
Class 2 – Assists up to 20 mph whether the rider is pedaling or not (has a separate throttle), and ceases to function when brakes are applied. No minimum age, no helmet required.
Class 3 – Provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to function at 28 mph. Minimum age is 14, helmet required.

Class 1 e-bikes are the most versatile, and can be ridden on a multi-use trail or roadway that runs from point to point with an asphalt, crushed limestone, or similar surface, or a rail trail (a retired railroad route) unless prohibited by local agencies. Check local ordinances for Class 1 e-Bike availability on local trails.

Class 2 or Class 3 e-bikes can be trail ridden as above only if authorized. Presume that it’s illegal to ride Class 2 or Class 3 e-bikes on trails unless expressly allowed by local authorities. Michigan e-bike law specifically prohibits all e-bikes on nonmotorized mountain bike and hiking trails (trails with a natural surface made by clearing and grading the native soil with no added surfacing materials) unless local authorities allow them.

Michigan e-bike law does not apply to congressionally-authorized public trail systems such as the North Country National Scenic Trail. No e-bikes on Mackinac Island.

When e-biking, the rider has the rights and duties of a vehicle driver, and the same requirements as a bicycle rider. When riding an e-bike on the road, treat it like a bicycle and follow all traffic laws.

Insurance

Michigan law specifically excludes e-bikes from the definition of “motor vehicles.” Auto insurance for an e-bike isn’t required and it’s often covered in the same way as a bicycle. But, since e-bikes cost more, consult your insurance agent to ensure coverage under your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. If someone steals your e-bike, you want insurance! If not insured, consider purchasing a policy rider.

Yeah, you can google “e-bikes” but visit your local bike shops instead for details and local model options. Take an e-bike for an e-ride. Bike shops are excited about e-bikes. You will be too. Vive la révolution!

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Reference: https://michiganbikelawyer.com/

Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC.

Leave a comment

Filed under green living

Green Living: Farming the Sun? by Steve Waller

solar benefits, farming the sun, green living, holistic wellness in MI's Upper Peninsula

Farmers have been harvesting sunlight for millennia. The DNA in each plant combines CO2 from air, H2O (water), and energy from sunlight. Harvesting sunlight drives photosynthesis. Every leaf is a solar panel.

Those simple ingredients miraculously assemble into the crops we eat directly or feed to livestock. That green vegetable, golden grain, tuber, bean, or fruit is a convenient bundle of air, water and solar power (with trace elements from soil). We carry that bundled solar energy home for delicious, nutritious meals that energize our bodies and our thoughts. We are what we eat. What else could our bodies be? We are air, water and sunlight. No other energy source is involved. Our body’s energy is solar energy. Thank the farmers.

Today, some Upper Peninsula farmers have a new green crop available, one they never expected.

A way of farming so new and different that they are cautiously uncertain about it. Technology has now enabled U.P. farmers to economically harvest sunlight directly, feeding our other insatiable appetite—that for clean electricity.

Farmers in sunny locations, near power lines, are being invited to lease much of their land to solar producers who plant solar panels and harvest the electricity to feed our green power hunger. Harvesting this new crop is an opportunity for farmers to escape the uncertainty of market prices, water issues, and unpredictable government subsidies.

Solar power enables farmers to gain significant, reliable, year-round income from land leases (much like seasonal leases many farms already have) instead of just summer or autumn harvests. Solar power is a non-toxic, no-till crop that actually improves land and water by essentially eliminating pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. Space between rows of panels are often deliberately planted with “pollinator species,” flowers that attract bees and other pollinators, benefiting neighboring farms. Solar panels are silent, reliable, work year-round, aren’t labor intensive, and are friendly to wildlife.

Some farmers (and tourists) are not willing to exchange the classic view of cropland or pasture for solar panels. The change seems too radical, too technical versus biological, too non-traditional. Yet, the “traditional farm,” a biological food factory, is by necessity increasingly industrialized, genetically modified, and chemically enhanced. In winter, much of it is barren and unproductive. In spring, it is a sea of black tilled soil, subject to erosion, runoff, and flooding. Wildlife is discouraged.

Being a successful land steward (farmer) is a demanding and highly refined skill, complicated by many risks, pressured by markets, productivity goals, weather, and the economy.

Many farmers are older, with a lifestyle that younger generations either can’t afford or don’t want. Some owners are concerned that they can no longer work their land profitably. Selling land for a housing development might be their only reasonable alternative, but development ends the farm, the drive-by farm views, and permanently turns farmland into another housing subdivision.

Solar energy can enable veteran farmers to remain productive. Solar can help support them for the rest of their lives and their descendants’ lives for generations to come. A solar farm is one that can be kept in the family, even if the descendants are living a different life.

Willingly exchanging a bucolic landscape for a solarscape moves us toward a sustainable future. Solar panels will produce a yield, even as climate change puts conventional crops and farmers at risk. Solar power prevents greenhouse gases, protecting our rural environment and lifestyle. Solar farmers can provide the needs of the many in new ways, just as farmers have done for centuries. What we find aesthetically pleasing is influenced by our values and priorities. A farm crop of solar panels, working silently, cleanly providing for our needs, is beautiful.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. He and a partner own a U.P. wind/solar business called Lean Clean Energy. He can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2019-2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under green living

Green Living: Working Toward Well-Being, by Steve Waller

well-being, green living, sustainability, U.P. wellness publication, U.P. holistic health publication, U.P. health magazine, U.P. holistic health magazine, U.P. wellness magazine, holistic health in the U.P., holistic health in MI's Upper Peninsula, wellness publication in MI's Upper Peninsula

Ah, the good life!

We crave it. We work for it. We envy it. Can we define it? Would we know if we are already living it or is it always on the horizon, just out of reach? As Alice in Wonderland asks, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cheshire Cat. And if you don’t care where you get to, it doesn’t matter which way you go.

To get to the good life, to live the dream, you have to know which way to go. You need clear targets and a way to know how to reach them. A common assumption is that more wealth equals the good life, that a winning lottery ticket hits the bullseye. That’s the wrong direction.

Defining the good life is so vital that it has been the subject of scientific studies for decades.

In science, the good life is often called well-being, and is broken into subjective well-being–your emotional feelings of happiness, and objective well-being–measurable conditions affecting the quality of daily life.

The measurable conditions of well-being are by no means absolute, but certain elements are accepted as necessary: good living standards, robust health, a sustainable environment, vital communities, an educated populace, balanced time use, high levels of democratic participation, moderate income, and access to and participation in leisure and culture. These are measurable targets to move toward. We create our well-being by the choices we make, but one of the elements requires special effort.

Environmental sustainability,

an element we absolutely depend on for the rest of our well-being, is not something individuals or even communities can easily control. The environment is too large for a local community. Subtract any part of an environmentally sustainable source of clean water, clean air, and healthy food from the other elements and well-being, regardless of income, would be essentially impossible. It’s just that critical.

Local organizations are crucial to local environment, but what actually sustains us is not local. Air, water quality, energy, and resources are bigger than a local community. We need to become educated on the environment beyond backyards and local communities. The environment is the global biological machine that supports the world.

Do you know anyone who has read the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) report (summarized here: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/)? Probably not. That SDG report indicates the state of the world’s wildlife and focuses on most factors of well-being. It is the most comprehensive report on the planet. It also says we have work to do, changes to make, and fast.

Individual citizens are almost powerless to influence or control global environmental sustainability. Even when we try, our efforts are feeble in the face of opposition, and inferior to the scale of what needs to be done. Instead, we need to concede that the solution rests with powerful people. Yes, we need to defer to, no, encourage and empower the rare people who can connect with others around the world, and can affect the policies and practices that encourage environmental sustainability.

Become educated in the big picture.

There are abundant free reports online to educate you and help you focus on effective strategies. Know what your government is or is not doing. Get involved. You can’t influence environmental stability alone, but you can join powerful organizations that can lobby and act on your behalf. Contribute to the big influential organizations. That money is not an expense, it’s your tax-deductible investment in the good life. Make choices. Take actions. It’s your well-being we are talking about.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. He and a partner own a U.P. wind/solar business called Lean Clean Energy. He can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved

Leave a comment

Filed under green living

Green Living: Our Debt to Trees, Steve Waller

green living, importance of trees, U.P. holistic magazine, U.P. wellness publication

Summer rises slowly from the northern forest floor. Buds burst into bouquets, injecting their sweet smell into our sterile yards and homes. Last year’s leaves slowly decompose and feed the fruits, nuts, and spices that we harvest and stock on store shelves. We feed our families tree parts.

Pancakes are covered in tree sugar. Dates, figs, olives, palm oil, cinnamon, allspice, pimento, nutmeg, and cloves all come from trees. Cocoa trees are used to make cocoa and chocolate. The berries of coffee trees yield our blessed coffee beans. Our homes are made of wood—walls, cabinets, flooring. Wood warmed our ancestors for thousands of years. Burning coals generated enough heat to extract precious metals from rock. The paper this article is printed on was a tree.

Tree seeds, apple pips, and plum stones have delicious edible tissue.

Animals including mammals (us) and birds eat the fruits and discard the seeds. Pine cones are hoarded by red squirrels. Bears help disperse seed by raiding squirrel caches. Trees feed an entire army of insects who spend their summer gnawing away at the leaves and stems.

Most showy flowering trees are insect-pollinated. Wind-pollinated trees, like evergreens, take advantage of increased wind speeds high above the ground. That is why so many pine cones are near the tree tops.

green living, importance of trees, U.P. holistic magazine, U.P. wellness publication

Many trees are interconnected through their root system, forming a colony. Interconnections are made by a kind of natural grafting or welding of vegetal tissues. The networking was discovered by injecting chemicals, sometimes radioactive, into a tree, and then checking for its presence in neighboring trees. They are networked. They share resources and communicate with each other. Read The Hidden Life of Trees (Peter Wohlleben) for amazing details.

We plant trees for beauty and shade from the hot sun. Trees form wind breaks, hold moisture and soil after heavy rains. They cool the air like air conditioners, and are homes to birds and mammals. New subdivisions look bare and sterile until young trees invade the neighborhood.

green living, importance of trees, U.P. holistic magazine, U.P. wellness publication

In the cold winters of the north, trees must grow rapidly in the short summer season when the temperature rises and the days are long. Light is limited under their dense cover and there may be little plant life on the forest floor, although fungi may abound.

The tiniest tree is a dwarf willow (Salix herbacea) found in arctic regions, maxing out at only three inches tall. A coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), named Hyperion after a person in Greek mythology, is no less than 380 feet tall.

I was recently on a road trip, cruising through the dry treeless southwestern states. The lack of trees amplified the heat and wind, keeping the land dry and barren. Animals, even birds, were rare. I felt relieved and most at home when I re-entered the land of trees, where the streams could flow, plants grow, and the wind is broken.

There are an estimated 3.04 trillion trees—

half in the tropics, a quarter in the temperate zones and the rest in the northern evergreen forests. About 15 billion trees are cut down annually, and about 5 billion are planted. In the 12,000 years since the start of human agriculture, the number of trees worldwide has decreased by 46%.

green living, importance of trees, U.P. holistic magazine, U.P. wellness publication

Many butterflies, moths and all other critters that feed mostly on trees are actually made of trees! We are what we eat. We eat trees. We too are rearranged tree stuff!

We should love our trees. We depend on them. Our lives would be miserable without them. We need to understand and support trees better. We owe them appreciation and respect.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. He and a partner own a U.P. wind/solar business called Lean Clean Energy. He can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under Environmental Education, green living

Community Improvement: Styro-Free for You, Me & the Critters that Be, by Vicki Londerville

styro-free movement in marquette mi, green living in the U.P., sustainability in the U.P. U.P. wellness publication, U.P. eco-friendly improvements, eco-friendly U.P.

When I moved to the Upper Peninsula, one of my first excursions was to a Marquette bakery. Jubilant over finding a local supplier for my long-running pastry fixation, I ordered a croissant and a coffee to go. My heart sank when the barista handed me a piping hot Americano in a Styrofoam cup. I must’ve looked as though she’d fixed me a hemlock latte.

“Is something wrong? Did you need more room?” she asked.

“Umm… no…,” I trailed off, not wanting to make a fuss; there was a substantial queue of customers behind me. I walked out of the bakery feeling frustrated that I didn’t speak up.

A Greener Change

Enter Ron Carnell. He attended Northern Michigan University, followed by the University of Washington (BA), then earned a Master’s degree from Kansas State University. Carnell has a long history of activism, including field fundraising for Public Interest Research Group, Greenpeace Action, and the Northwest AIDS Foundation.

Upon moving back to Marquette from Seattle in July of 2018, Carnell noticed that most restaurants he visited were still using Styrofoam TM (expanded polystyrene, or EPS) containers for takeout items.

“I began talking about it and found there was enough interest to lay the groundwork for a campaign to urge the City of Marquette to get behind a resolution.” He started StyroFree Marquette, a grassroots group of local citizens and business owners promoting the benefits of replacing EPS take-out and beverage containers with healthier, environmentally safer options for Marquette and, maybe one day, all of the U.P.

That said, Carnell maintains that StyroFree Marquette is not out to ban anything. Rather, this group hopes to inspire restauranteurs and bakery and coffee shop owners to consider what can be better choices for their bottom line, the community’s image, and the environment.

The Problem with EPS

Pieces of EPS cups and food containers are a common choking and death hazard when birds, fish, and wildlife consume them. The more an EPS takeout container breaks into smaller pieces, the more difficult it is to clean up. EPS is also petroleum-based, is nearly impossible to recycle (there are no EPS recycling options in the U.P.), and is known to leech cancer-causing chemicals like toluene and benzene into hot foods. EPS is already banned in dozens of cities across the country, with many more considering joining the list. Recent big-city bans include New York City and San Diego.

We all know Marquette is growing. We offer so much as a place to live and as a tourist destination—lively arts and entertainment, wonderful winter and summer activities, and expanding culinary tastes. Offering consumers alternatives to EPS takeout containers and beverage cups is but one easy and cost-effective step toward strengthening what makes our town so appealing. With the support of citizens and city government, Marquette can be the first city in Michigan where restaurants and coffee shops actively use alternatives to EPS containers.

Feedback & Action

Since October 2018, the StyroFree Marquette citizen coalition has received virtually 100% positive responses from local restaurant owners, city officials, students, and residents. The coalition invites the public to share their questions, concerns, and input with members of StyroFree Marquette. The coalition’s next meeting will be held Wednesday, June 5 from 7:00-8:30 pm, at Peter White Public Library’s Heritage Room.

To learn more, call Ron Carnell at 206-227-0867 or visit http://www.styrofreemarquette.org or Facebook – Twitter/StyroFree Marquette.

Vicki Londerville is a Marquette artist/illustrator and an active member of the Marquette Artist Collective. She is currently writing and illustrating an environmentally-themed children’s book set in the Upper Peninsula. Vicki loves exploring the UP’s wild places on her horse or in her kayak.

Reprinted with permission from the Summer 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved. Click here for U.P. distribution locations.

Leave a comment

Filed under Community Improvement, green living