Category Archives: green living

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

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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

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Green Living: Our Debt to Trees, Steve Waller

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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.

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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.

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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%.

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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.

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

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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.

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Summer 2019 Issue Preparing to Roll!

U.P. wellness publication, U.P. holistic health publication, holistic health in MI's Upper Peninsula, U.P. well-being publication

The printing press is preparing to roll and 10,000 copies will begin distribution this week!

Read all about “The UPsurge in the Arts, Acupuncture of Marquette, the Styro-Free movement and much more!

Click here for a pick-up point near you!

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More Info. from Steve Waller on “Wind Energy – Hot Air?”

Here’s the formula for relating turbines to trees:

A 2-megawatt turbine X 35% load factor outputs 700 kw X 8,760 hrs per year = 6,132,000 kWh per year X 650 g/kWh average intensity = 4,394 tons of CO2 / 2 tons CO2 absorbed per acre of trees = 2,196 equivalent acres of forest per 2-megawatt turbine

A single 2-megawatt turbine has the CO2 reducing effect of 2,196 acres of forest while generating $367,920 (@ $0.06 wholesale per kWh) of electricity per year.

One megawatt of turbine = roughly 1,000 equivalent forest acres. 

A higher turbine “load factor” (percent of maximum possible output actually generated) increases the forest equivalent. The newest turbines have higher load factors.

50 turbines in a wind farm (50 X 2,196) have the CO2 reducing effect of 109,840 acres of forest

Example:

Summit Lake wind farm’s 50 turbines utilize a footprint of only 560 acres (2%) of the 28,000 acres of wind farm forest. 98% of the forest remains forested.

219,700 turbine tons of CO2 + 54,880 unmodified forest tons of CO2 ((28,000 original acres – 560 turbine acres) X 2 tons CO2 per acre) = 274,580 tons of CO2 kept out of the air per year.

The wind farm increases the CO2 reduction of the original 28,000 acre Summit Lake forest from 56,000 tons of CO2 absorbed per year without the wind farm to the equivalent of 274,580 tons of CO2 absorbed per year with the wind farm.

Looks like we should REALLY encourage the Summit Wind Farm!

$ value of turbine power:

6,132,000 kWh X $0.06 wholesale (AKA “offset” price) price per kWh =

$367,920 annual wholesale value of electricity per turbine.

$367,920 X 50 turbines = $18,396,000 annual wholesale value of wind farm power.

6,132,000 kWh X $0.14 retail price per kWh = $858,480 annual retail value of electricity per turbine.

$858,480 X 50 turbines = $42,924,000 annual retail value of wind farm power.

Here are just a few of the sources I used for Wind Energy – Hot Air in the Spring 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine.

https://cleantechnica.com/2018/02/21/wind-power-results-bird-deaths-overall/

https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/co2_vol_mass.php

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1530-9290.2012.00464.x

https://www.nrdc.org/experts/arjun-krishnaswami/renewable-energy-brings-economic-boost-rural-communities

https://www.factcheck.org/2018/03/wind-energys-carbon-footprint/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616093317.htm

https://www.awea.org/wind-101/benefits-of-wind/environmental-benefits

https://www.awea.org/wind-101/benefits-of-wind

https://www.awea.org/Awea/media/Resources/StateFactSheets/Michigan.pdf

https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/life-cycle-analysis-of-the-embodied-carbon-emissions-from-14-wind-turbines-with-rated-powers-between-50-kw-and-34-mw-2090-4541-1000211.php?aid=74577

https://www.awea.org/wind-101/benefits-of-wind/economic-development

https://www.aweablog.org/the-truth-about-wind-power/

https://www.aweablog.org/fact-check-really-causes-electricity-prices-rise/

http://www.windustry.org/how_much_do_farmers_get_paid_to_host_wind_turbines

https://www.landmarkdividend.com/wind-turbine-lease-rates/

https://cleantechnica.com/2014/05/07/wind-power/

https://www.nrdc.org/experts/arjun-krishnaswami/new-report-clean-energy-sweeps-across-rural-midwest

https://www.awea.org/Awea/media/Resources/StateFactSheets/Michigan.pdf

 

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Supercharge Your Holiday Shopping, by Steve Waller

This year, shop with a passion that does more than merely make your loved ones smile. Supercharged gifts make a difference in the world. Yep, you can help save the world by shopping!

Gift family and friends battery-powered appliances that replace as many gasoline engines as possible. Today’s lithium batteries are super-powerful, charge fast, and last a long time. Many simply have not tried the newest battery-powered products. Some gas guzzlers stubbornly refuse. In the old days, batteries were weak and unreliable, and those memories can prejudice fossil fuelers against batteries. But that’s changed. You can initiate change, and they will love the results.

Amazing battery-powered products step up modern living—more power, less weight, simple operation, reliable, convenient, great for the economy, quieter, less maintenance, lower operating cost, a healthier environment, and a brighter future. Wow!

Once you’ve committed to supercharged gifting, you can help those stuck in old fossil-fueled habits transition to newer, cleaner, easier, better ways to live. Your gifts cause the spark, but there is a specific strategy to follow.

Be smart about battery appliances. Learn if your giftee already has large battery powered appliances, such as walk-behind lawn mowers and/or snow blowers. If they do, and they are happy with them, go to Step 2 below. If not, opportunity awaits…

Step 1: Start with the biggest appliances. Quality walk-behind lawn mowers and/or snow blowers are more expensive, but they usually come with two batteries and a charger that you only need to buy once. The highest battery voltage is best. One battery charges while the other is working. The newest technologies should fully recharge a battery in about half an hour, faster than it takes to use up a charged battery, ensuring you’ll never run out of juice. And the same batteries can be used on other appliances.

Step 2 – If your giftee already has two batteries and a charger, shop for other gas replacing appliances that use the same batteries as those in Step 1 but this time, buy the appliance “tool only,” meaning without a battery/charger. New appliances without batteries are much cheaper. Objective – recycle all those gasoline engines.

If your giftee has no need for a mower or snow blower, consider any gasoline-powered product they might use regularly – leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, string trimmers, powered pole saws (for pruning trees), even chainsaws! Battery chain saws have amazing power, run quieter, and one battery lasts about as long as a tank of gasoline. Buy the first appliance with a battery (eventually two) and a charger, then add “tool only” items to the tool collection.

How do your gifts save the world? The International Panel for Climate Change, made up of thousands of the world’s climate change experts, published its most conclusive report last October (http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/) that finally specified the dire consequences from burning fossil fuels. It states what needs to change and how much time we have to succeed. The bottom line is we must transition away from fossil fuels ASAP, and the transition must be completed in only ten years (by 2030)! Problem is, the report was almost ignored (again), so many don’t or won’t realize the need to change (https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/full.html).

Hiking boots, skis, or snowshoes are healthier than gas-guzzling ATVs and snowmobiles. Swimming is healthier than a jet ski. Selling expensive recreational gas-guzzlers (and the truck that pulls them) frees cash for solar panels. In a household with two cars, one should be a plug-in electric. That is what has to happen. Supercharged shopping for a better future is the most admirable and valuable gift you can give. Do it.

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.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2018-19 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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Green Living: Time for a Happy Walk! by Steve Waller

Feeling stressed, tired, angry, lonely, or sleepless? Fighting weight gain or aging? The fountain of youth exists—only two feet away, literally. Look down and count. Two feet? You’re all set. Park the car. Start Happy Walking!

We are built to walk! Our ancient ancestors walked out of Africa to the ends of the earth – Europe, Asia, the Americas, the U.P! The average American spends nine to ten hours a day sitting or driving cars. We’re becoming wimps. If we were built to drive cars, we’d have only one foot!

Google “benefits of walking.” Walking helps you lose weight, reduces stress (lowering blood pressure), decreases anger and hostility (makes you nicer), and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. A regular 15-30-45 minute walk is one of the best (cheapest) and easiest things you can do for your health.

Walkers think more creatively than sitters. Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, increases metabolism by burning extra calories, and prevents muscle loss. Walking triggers your body to release natural pain-killing endorphins. A 10-minute walk may be as good as a 45-minute workout to relieve the symptoms of anxiety. You don’t need to slog it out on a treadmill at the gym for these benefits.

Walking in nature, specifically, reduces dwelling over negative experiences, which reduces the risk of depression. Walks with a partner, a neighbor, or a good friend help you feel connected, which boosts mood. Just twelve minutes of walking can increase joviality, vigor, attentiveness, and self-confidence versus the same time spent sitting. The more steps people take during a day, the better their mood tends to be. Walkers are happier!

Since walking doesn’t wear down your body much, it doesn’t require recovery time. For those who are fit, walking is a phenomenal maintenance activity, keeping you healthier into old age.

So, instead of driving to a gym to work out, walk to the gym’s front door. Do Not Enter. Shout out loud, “I walk!” Turn around. Walk home. Your workout is done. No monthly fee!

Start with a walk in the neighborhood. Take it easy at first. Bring the kids. Be neighborly. Walk to the local grocery. Why drag 4,000 lbs of automobile along to buy a 10 lb. bag of goodies? Grab a comfortable recycled bag or backpack or borrow a neighbor’s wagon or a stroller for strolling, and walk. Plan weekends exploring many of the local short or long foot trails awaiting your footprints. (https://www.traillink.com/state/mi-trails/.)

Ready for an adventure? The Iron Ore Heritage Trail traverses 47 miles across the Marquette Iron Range. It’s an outdoor linear mining history museum where you exercise your body and mind with interpretive signage, artwork and connections to museums along the way. http://ironoreheritage.com/

The North Country Trail (NCT) is a 4,600 mile footpath stretching from eastern New York to central North Dakota. As of early 2017, 3,009 miles of the trail are in place, passing through seven states. The longest stretch is 1,000+ miles split evenly between upper and lower Michigan.

In the beautiful Upper Peninsula, the NCT stretches 167 miles from the Mackinac Bridge to the Luce/Alger County border, just east of Grand Marais; 188 miles from Grand Marais through Marquette to the Marquette/Baraga County Line on the eastern border of Craig Lake State Park; then 192 more miles to the MI/WI border near Ironwood. (https://northcountrytrail.org/trail/michigan-upper/)

Do it all or maybe just a part, or just one part at a time. Walking outdoors exposes you to natural sunlight. Walking with groups of friends outdoors exposes you to fun and creative thought.

Buy less gasoline. Walk. You’ll be happier!

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.

Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Summer 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

 

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