Tag Archives: 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.

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Green Living: Electrified Beauty Steve Waller

green living, environmental sustainability, U.P. holistic business, winter sports, U.P. winter recreation

U.P. snowmobile trails are legendary. Sleds contribute huge economic benefits. They get us outside in winter to enjoy the season’s unique beauty. But there is a new opportunity available, a way to reverse the most ridiculous mismatch for our frozen forests.

Snowmobiles zip along at 60+ MPH with 150 horsepower, gas engines, a price tag of $10,000-$20,000, not including the trailer or tow truck, to push a ±200 lb. human across our winter wonderland. It’s ridiculous because a single horse, fueled only by grass, grain, and water can haul a log weighing 1,500 pounds. Horse loggers have done this for centuries and still do. Using 150 horses just to move a snowmobiler is severe overkill.

But I get it. The thrill, the feeling of power, speed, being on the edge, sticking that turn without going airborne into a tree, the shiny colors, the windproof heated gear, the chance to enjoy friends, good food, and an occasional beer. Sleds bring the roar of a combustion engine to our snowy silence, emitting 88 grams of carbon monoxide per kilometer, and 22 times the amount of nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons emitted by a passenger car. But a new machine now cures the ills of those gas guzzlers.

Introducing— electric snowmobiles!

Acceleration? Zero to sixty in 3.5 seconds standard configuration (2.9 sec. performance configuration). 120 HP standard configuration (180 HP performance configuration); all under 600 lbs. Significantly more power than leading sled engines. Zero throttle lag. Unaffected by elevation, temperature, and riding style. Peak performance in all conditions. Range— 80 miles. DC fast re-charge to 80% in 20 minutes. AC 240V L2 charge in 2 hours. An advanced thermal management system ensures the battery will always be in its sweet spot—even when temperatures get as low as -40˚F. No starting problems ever. No pulleys, no oil, no maintenance, period. Save up to $2,500 in maintenance while spending less time in the garage, and more time riding.

Electric sleds are here. They outperform your existing fossil sled. For about the same price, you can end your recreational gas burning, and ride the hottest machine—cleaner, faster, more reliable, and absolutely quieter. Even those who live in the forest are more tolerant of sleds that don’t disturb our quiet winter. Electric snowmobiles have no emissions.

I know, you are going to freak out about charging. Everybody new to electric vehicles freaks out. “Range anxiety” is why you don’t already own an electric car. You worry about running out of energy. But thousands of electric car owners are beyond worry. They love their electric cars. Still, where do you charge your sled? What if you run out of charge?

The typical fossil sled has average fuel consumption of around 10-20 mpg so tank size matters. But how often do you ride 200 miles without stopping? If you can add 80% of charge to your sled in 20 minutes, you can get 60 more miles of charge in less time than you can drink a beer. Electric outlets are more abundant than gas stations. Your electric sled will be the center of attention. At $0.15kWh, a 27kWh sled battery costs $4 for a full charge from empty.

Electric sleds are another piece of our new way of life.

CO2 must go. Everything needs to be electrified—cars, sleds, ATVs, furnaces, trucks, stores, industries, mines, everything. Recreational gas burning must end. Electricity can and will fill the gap better, more cleanly, and more powerfully. The transition is happening now. The U.P. has finally started installing solar farms, bringing clean, stable, cost-effective energy to all of us. Feel the power. Ride electricity.

Sources:
https://taigamotors.ca/snowmobiles/
https://www.uky.edu/OtherOrgs/AppalFor/draftl.html#:~:text=A%20team%20of%20horses%20can%20pull%20a%20load%20of%20about,DBH%20and%2032%20feet%20long
https://elischolar.library.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1012&context=yale_fes_bulletin
https://mountainculturegroup.com/montreal-company-unveils-worlds-first-electric-snowmobile/

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 Spring 2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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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