Category Archives: green living

Practical Solar for Northern Regions?

Click here to watch a video of Green Living educator Steve Waller’s presentation at last Saturday’s “Myth-Busting & Self-help Tips” forum, in celebration of our 10th anniversary.

And while you’re there, subscribe to Health and Happiness’s Youtube Channel to stay in the loop for more great video presentations!

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Filed under Energy Conservation, green living, Solar Energy, Steve Waller, Uncategorized, Video Presentation

What Is . . . . Marquette Growth?

More and more we hear about the lack of understanding of the connection between our food and where it comes from, but how many of us are actually doing something about it?

In 2012, a group of friends asked each other what they’d do for our community if they had a million dollars, and realized they all wanted to empower the community’s ability to grow food. This led to the creation of Marquette Growth. Marquette Growth is a non-profit community garden initiative aimed at providing access to free, healthy, organic, growing sites and education for the community, with a focus on getting food from farm to school.

As Vice President Scott Lawrence describes, “We heard the same reasons over and over for why people don’t take responsibility for a portion of their food—no time, space, money, or education. We realized a free educational community garden group was the answer, where people can donate time for fresh produce.”

It took months of sustained effort for group members Tyler Phillips, Jess Zerbel, Miriah Redmond and Scott Lawrence to find a place to start the program. Thankfully, Marquette Alternative High School Principal Andrew Crunkleton believed in their vision and work began on the hoop house at Graveraet, where the school was located at the time.

Lawrence also began a Kickstarter Fund in 2013, which raised $2500 to start a food forest of fruit trees and other perennials, plus annual garden beds at Vandenboom Alternative High School. Marquette Growth facilitated a full day of gardening workshops leading up to the actual planting of the trees and other perennials, which was accompanied by live music. Annual gardens were also planted, which the students help maintain.

Since then smaller sites have also been established, including at Cherry Creek Senior Living, behind the Wild Rover, Ore Dock Brewery, Sandy Knoll Elementary, Black Rocks Brewery, Teaching Family Homes and Sweet Water Café, with items such as sunflowers, a mint garden or fruit tree.

Lawrence explains, “The hoop house is open to all community members, young or old. We like the way that gardening connects all walks of life. We all eat. Why not eat the best quality food? We are happiest seeing young working next to old, poor working next to wealthy. We want to bridge the gaps of our community through growing high quality food. And get kids excited about growing their own food, or at least give them the knowledge of where their food comes from.”

At Gravaeret Elementary, students have access to hands-on agricultural education through the school garden from seed to fork. They help as much as possible in the hoop house, which is watered, planted and maintained solely by volunteers, and their garden produce is implemented in school lunch options. “Last year’s 4th graders even sold seeds and seedlings to raise funds for a field trip to MSU North Farm as part of an educational unit Marquette Growth ran in partnership with MSU Extension, Marquette Food Co-op, Transition Marquette, and the school district. Students toured the farm, seeing how the transplants used in the school garden were started, and saving seeds from these and other plants,” describes member Miriah Redmond.

Marquette Growth would like to help establish hoop houses at all of Marquette’s public schools. Once approval is obtained, the group will seek funding. Already, “hundreds of pounds of food, lots of enlightened/educated community members, and tons of new relationships have been created,” describes Lawrence. He’s passionate about the need for this initiative, explaining, “We are at the end of the food delivery routes. Major grocery stores only have enough food to support our community for two to three days. If fossil fuels seize to exist, so will our food. We need to work together to build a food sovereign community. Younger generations need to be educated on these matters to encourage them to take responsibility for a portion of their own food. Together, we can build a more resilient community. Spread the word of Marquette Growth, get people excited about growing food and bridge any gap in existence to get us all working together.”

New helpers are welcome to join Wednesday work nights at Gravaeret Elementary, as well as additional open hoop house hours, various workshops, and Facebook.com/groups/marquettegrowth. The initiative can also be supported by financial contributions through Paypal by contacting mqtgrowth@gmail.com.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2016 issue.

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Filed under Environmental Education, Gardening, green living, Marquette

Gifts from Nature: Autumn’s Look Within, by Kevin McGrath

As I sit amongst the trees on the banks of the Chocolay River, on this summer-like autumn day, gazing at the placid lifeblood of this Greatest Lake of ours, I can’t help but realize the correlation between the trees’ evolution with nature’s flow, dropping their color and beauty to become future fertilizer and soil, their trunks and branches sending energy inward and down toward their root systems, and us humans sending our kids and students back to school.

This back-to-basics time, working on a core human feature – our brains, can be likened to the inward journey of our hardwood brethren, the aspens, tamaracks and birches, to name a few, as we potentially learn to reclaim ourselves from the inside out.

For me, as I contemplate this renewal, I ask myself, “Am I living up to my personal standards? Am I living life on my terms? Am I being the person I truly want to be?”

I have more questions than answers at this point, but as fall starts giving way to winter, my contemplation period can develop into devising a plan in early winter, so that sometime during the new year, a personal yearly manifesto is constructed and written down, enabling me to look back at it when the need is there. It’s a New Year’s resolution of sorts on how I plan on being a better person. I observe shortcomings in myself and attempt to rectify them through new actions.

For example, I never used to dance. Somewhere along the line in growing up, my perception was that real men didn’t dance. Even though it looked like a lot of fun, I avoided dancing at all cost. I was afraid of appearing vulnerable and inept, and becoming the target of jokes.

As I turned middle aged, I had an a-ha moment, realizing “Who cares what others think or say? Deep down I want to dance!” Now I dance whenever I can, and to help with my two left feet, I started taking Zumba, an exercise dance class, where to my surprise I discovered I love it, even though I’m often the only male there. I move a little more smoothly now, and it’s really helped my city league basketball game.

So as I take this time to evaluate where I am in life, like the trees focusing inward and our schoolchildren going back to learning, I look to this time of renewal to help tweak the real me into becoming the person who feels completely happy and comfortable with himself.

Kevin McGrath can be found dancing amongst the trees, tweaking the direction of his life, or as Jim Carey told Marshall University graduates, “hitting the reset button as often as it takes” to become the true him.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Fall 2014 issue, copyright 2014, Intuitive Learning Creations.

*Did you know you can find exclusive Solar Products for the U.P. online at www.upgreen.org? Great hiking and off-grid products included!

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Filed under Energy Conservation, Gifts from Nature, green living

Green Living: Clear Your Way With An Electric Snowblower! by Steve Waller

Being a maverick is in my up-north blood. I live by an old “Wallerism” – “If nothing changes… nothing changes!” So I challenged ancient Yooper wisdom that says you need a 350 lb., 36” wide 2-stage snow-blower driven by a 15 horsepower gas engine to clear snow from a driveway in town. (Can it really require the power of 15 horses to clear a driveway? The filthy, noisy, gas guzzler price tag, anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500?) So last year I did the (almost) unthinkable – I bought an electric snowblower and put it to the test.

I endured all the “What, are you crazy?” comments, did some research, then ordered an 18” wide plug-in (not battery-powered) electric snowblower for only $135 and used it last year to move snow from a double-wide driveway at my daughter’s house in town. Based on experience, here are the advantages and limitations of an electric snowblower:

The electric model is a snow thrower not a snow blower. Blowers have two stages: an auger to scoop the snow into the blower, then a separate fan to blow the snow out 30’. The snow thrower has only a single stage that does both and throws snow 15’. Plus, the small electric motor versus a heavy gas engine means the thrower is only 32 lbs. versus 350 lbs.! It’s easy to lift in and out of garage doors or basements or to lift up stairs to clear off porches. This is especially convenient for older, smaller or younger people who can’t wrestle 350 lb. machines. In summer you can easily hang it up on the garage wall, out of the way.

Electric throwers have replaceable rubber edges that won’t tear into grass, won’t grind your stairs or other obstructions into sawdust, and are better able to clear snow all the way down to the driveway surface so you don’t have to shovel that last half inch. The narrower cut (18” vs. 36”) lets you clear tighter spots and is easier to navigate.

It’s easy to start an electric thrower. Just push the button and you’re blowin.’ No yanking, no cussing, no chokes, no fueling, no filling tanks, no oil changes. Since no gasoline is used, the electric thrower is cheaper to operate, needs way less maintenance, is much cleaner and environmentally friendly and above all –  is much quieter. No earplugs needed.

Since it doesn’t have driven wheels, you don’t have to do “the snowblower crawl.” Move at whatever speed is convenient and efficient. If there’s only 3” of snow, you can almost run! When moving to a new spot, just drag it at your normal walking speed. This freedom to move quickly really shortens the time spent blowing.

There is a cord on my model but that is less of an inconvenience than I thought. You must use

a heavy 14ga or 12 ga extension cord tied to the blower handle but if you blow starting near the outlet and work your way out (just like vacuuming a carpet) the cord stays pretty much out of the way and keeps blowing all day. If the idea of a cord really bothers you, there are new lithium-ion battery models for about $400 that will run for about 30 minutes per charged battery (get spare batteries).

BUT DOES IT BLOW SNOW??? Yes! The 350 lb. gas guzzler will blow snow 30’ if you need that much power, but the electric is plenty powerful for clearing 8” – 10” of snow from a 15’ wide driveway, sidewalks, etc. I LIKE using this electric blower. It’s fast and efficient. Consider it.

Links:

A video of my model snowthrower clearing 10 inches of snow (2.5 minutes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETHpvHf-zdA

My plug-in blower: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0040X4VBC/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1

A slightly more powerful plug-in blower: http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Joe-SJ622E-15-Ampere-Electric/dp/B008FV5R18/ref=pd_sim_sbs_lg_2

A Battery powered blower: http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Joe-iON18SB-Rechargeable-Lithium-Ion/dp/B00E3OXF6A/ref=cm_wl_huc_item

Spare battery: http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Joe-iBAT40-Lithium-Ion-Battery/dp/B00F8FLB3W/ref=cm_wl_huc_item

Battery charger: http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Joe-iCHRG40-Lithium-Ion-Charger/dp/B00F8FLB2I/ref=cm_wl_huc_item

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind and solar powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970’s 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.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Winter 2013 – 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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Filed under green living, Snow Clearing, Steve Waller

Green Living Links, Winter 2012 – 13

Check out these great links recommended by Health & Happiness’s Green Living column writer Steve Waller, pertaining to his article in the Winter 2012 – 2013 issue,   A New World Record! (But shhh!… Pretend you don’t know).

The 2012 record recorded on YouTube (30 sec.):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaKqhRTqSlg&feature=youtu.be

The hilarious “Rogue Weathergirl” (MUST WATCH! 2.5 min.):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmfcJP_0eMc&feature=related

The arctic ice monitoring experts:
http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2012/09/

THE FABULOUS FREE PHONE APP (available on the website):
http://www.skepticalscience.com/

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Filed under Environmental Education, Global Warming, green living, Steve Waller

How To Cheat the Gas Pump

by Steve Waller

If I hear one more person complain about gas prices I’ll scream! Oil company shareholders are too busy cashing big dividends to be sympathetic. Complaining just says you’re grumpy when you fill your tank, but you filled up anyway, didn’t you? Demanding lower prices just says you desperately want to use gas as you always have, you don’t want to change your gas habits and you don’t want to pay so much – you will (but you don’t have to).

Low gas prices don’t make gas more abundant, (it just uses it up faster), doesn’t reduce demand, (so you willingly pay more), and doesn’t encourage renewables. If you really want to teach those gouging you at the pump a lesson, don’t complain, don’t try to lower prices, do what smart consumers do – buy LESS of their darn product! It’s simple math: Buy less = spend less. And don’t say “But I can’t!” because, for many of you, Yes, you can! Here’s how – Go into your garage, basement, shed or storage area. Take a strong flashlight. Look way, way in the back. See that bit of dusty old chrome? Good. Now move all that other stuff out of the way. Grab that shiny metal and drag that old bicycle out into the light of day. Get a few rags and an oil can, (or take it to your local bike shop for a tune up). Find a helmet, a lock and, for considerably less than the price of just one tank of gas, you’ve resurrected your wheels! It’s summer… RIDE!

Get very familiar with the Marquette Police Bicycle Safety Information (mqtcty.org/police_bike.html). Then be absolutely sure to read “What Every MI Bicyclist Should Know” from the League of Michigan Bicyclists (www.lmb.org/index.php/Education/michigan-vehicle-code-pertaining-to-bicyclists.html). Remember, you are responsible for your safety.

Start riding around the neighborhood. Grab your kid’s backpack and bring some supplies home from the grocery store. Log onto the “Marquette Bicycle Collective” on Facebook. The Collective seeks to enhance biking culture in the Marquette area and assist the development of a thriving, diverse bike community. They exist to provide bicycles for rent and purchase, provide bike workshop space, promote bicycle awareness, and provide practical bicycle education.

YES, many of you CAN commute to work. No, you won’t be all sweaty and disgusting unless you make your commute an Olympic event. Actually, you’ll be airing yourself out the whole way! You’ll be an inspiration to your fellow workers. No weather excuses; it only rains occasionally. Consider the wind a challenge. Ride to school, work, to run errands, or just for fun. Whenever you can, ride past the gas station. Then do it again. It feels sooo good! Your gas money stays in your pocket and you lose weight!

An average 150-pound person will burn about 500 calories riding a bike at a leisurely pace, 30 minutes to work and 30 minutes home. You’ll shed 5-10 pounds in about two or three months. By riding your bike or walking to work you no longer need to make time to head to the gym. Just 3 hours of riding per week can slash your risk of heart disease and stroke in half.

Who knows? If you’re already in moderately good shape, ride the Superior Bike Fest, June 24-26 (www.superiorbikefest.com). If you need to get back in shape, maybe by August 13th you’ll feel spunky enough to ride the Ore to Shore (www.oretoshore.com). Keep yourself and your bicycle in good condition and ride within your limits. In any case, when the gas shareholders come after your money, just smile and ride away!

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.

Marquette Bicycle Collective on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Marquette-Bicycle-Collective/129688747067191#!/pages/Marquette-Bicycle-Collective/129688747067191?sk=info

Reprinted from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Summer 2011 issue.

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Filed under green living, Steve Waller, Uncategorized

Are We Being Manipulated?

A Green Living article by Steve Waller

Something strange is happening. The Oct. 4, 2009 national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds fewer Americans, (57%, down from 71% in 2008), think there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades.
In January 2009, global warming ranked at the bottom of the American list of policy priorities. Only 30% of Americans said it should be a top priority, down from 35% a year ago. Global warming is the lowest-rated priority for both independents and Republicans and ranks sixteenth for Democrats among 20 issues. Across all age groups, except those younger than age 30, the percentage who think warming is a very serious problem has declined since 2008.
Independents’ belief dropped dramatically, from 75% in 2008 to 53% in 2009. Just 35% of Republicans see solid evidence today, down from 62% in 2007. The drop among moderate Republicans has been particularly steep; only 41% now say there is solid evidence of global warming, compared with 69% last year. Even Democrats see less evidence — 75% today compared with 83% in 2009, (91% in 2006). What evidence changed their minds?
Oddly, Americans claim to see less evidence as credible agencies that track global warming data around the world see more evidence. Arctic ice is a global thermometer that clearly reflects global temperatures. The National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado at Boulder (NSIDC, http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/) has monitored arctic ice conditions daily since 1976 and clearly shows more evidence of warming.
Since March 1958, average carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have been measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii (available on http://co2now.org/) and show more evidence that atmospheric CO2 levels are rising. Antarctic ice cores indicate that in 800,000 BC(!) CO2 levels were only 220 parts per million (ppm) (see http://www.terranature.org/antarcticIceCore.htm). During those 800,000 years prior to industrialization, CO2 was between 172 and 300 ppm. In 1850, CO2 was at 280 ppm; in 1958, 315 ppm; and in 1990, 350 ppm (considered the highest tolerable global level). As of Dec. 2009, CO2 was at 387 ppm.
The only evidence for carbon dioxide similar to today’s levels was 15 to 20 million years ago when the planet (and mankind) was dramatically different. During this timescale, methane was never higher than 750 parts per billion (ppb) but now it stands at 1,780 ppb.
The rate of change is the most dramatic, with carbon dioxide increases never exceeding 30 ppm in 1,000 years – now carbon dioxide has risen by 30 ppm in only the last 17 years. That’s evidence Americans suddenly stopped seeing last year!
What’s obvious is that those who claim to see less evidence are simply not looking for evidence. You can’t see what you don’t look for. Instead, Americans must be mistaking opinions for evidence. Americans are certainly saturated with opinions, but apparently not with evidence. That puts Americans at odds with the rest of the world which has a much higher concern about the evidence of global warming.
Could TV, promoting status-quo opinion, be persuading you that everything is OK and that evidence isn’t worth looking at? Might language testing and specific wording that turns public opinion on an issue, be turning on you? Has brain scan neuro-marketing learned what part of your brain helps marketers promote “don’t worry” campaigns without your conscious reasoning?
Before you express another mis-opinion about global warming, make sure you look for the evidence other Americans stopped seeing. Start at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming . There is great pleasure in clarity and clarity needs to be restored. Don’t be manipulated by opinions. Seek evidence.

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind and sol 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 Learn Clean Energy. He can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

 Reprinted from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2010. Copyright Steve Waller, 2010.
Sources:
http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1386/cap-and-trade-global-warming-opinion
http://people-press.org/report/485/economy-top-policy-priority
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Council on Foreign Relations
http://www.cfr.org/publication/20029/world_opinion_on_the_environment.html?breadcrumb=%2Fthinktank%2Fiigg%2Fpop%2F
World Opinion on the Environment 11/09 – From a variety of polls
http://www.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/POPCH5aEnvironment.pdf
U.S. Opinion on the Environment 11/09 – From a variety of polls
http://www.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/USPOPCH13aEnvironment.pdf
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Arctic Ice Cores
http://www.sustain.ucla.edu/news/article.asp?parentid=4676
http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/article/22071
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7193/full/nature06949.html
http://www.terranature.org/antarcticIceCore.htm

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Filed under Energy Conservation, Global Warming, green living, Steve Waller