Friday, December 30, 2011

Energy Independence? One Village Makes It Happen

Wildpoldsried,  a village of 2,600 in Germany, produces 321% more energy than they use.  Employing a variety of methods including wind turbines and solar panels, the village is now in a position, both earth-friendly and enviable, of making money by doing the right thing.
Currently they earn $5.7 million in revenue a year by selling their extra energy back to the national grid.

They made their changes over a period of 14 years, and they did it without going into debt.  See their story and slide show here.

For more information on this village's energy transformation, see this article, or do some googling.

Wildpoldsried's experience and inspiration is now available not just online but in person.  The mayor visits other towns, giving advice on how to make changes.  Also, the village council offers energy tours and talks for people who want to visit the village to see for themselves.

Don't know about you, but I've been waiting 40 years for a story like this.  On one hand, during those decades, a number of individuals and, more recently, commercial buildings have achieved energy independence, sometimes economically.  On the other hand  we've heard way too many repetitions of lines like alternative energy is "too expensive,"  "impractical," "unreliable,"  "not scaleable," blah blah blah.  These are the turf-defending views of King CONG (Harvey Wasserman's name for the Coal Oil Nuclear natural Gas industries).

CONG needs us to believe that we must have their deep-water drilling, their hydrofracking, mountaintop removal coal mining, and nukes in order to have enough energy.

Enter Wildpoldsried.   The accomplishment of this one small village stands as a potent refutation of CONGtalk.  CONG is simply  wrong.  Energy independence is in fact possible and practical.   A group of people with good leaders decided to make a change, acted on their decision, and change happened.

It can happen in more places.  Maybe the rest of us will be inspired by the Wildpoldsried story.  Maybe there's hope for our species to sustainably inhabit this planet, after all. 

photo by jinterwas on flickr

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Creative Cleanser

It’s really easy to make your own multi-purpose cleanser—mix one part vinegar with one part water. Vinegar is known to kill germs and bacteria; although there are different estimates, the most common one is that vinegar kills 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80 percent of germs (viruses).

You can get creative by adding a few drops of one of the many essential oils sold by the coop (jasmine, juniper, etc.) The coop also sells reusable spray bottles to store your cleanser. If you share your home with others, just make sure to label the bottle so others know what is in it.

You will save a lot of money by doing this (vinegar is inexpensive!) and have an environmentally friendly cleanser. You will not have to buy and dispose of multiple plastic bottles of cleanser at the store. And it's fun to pick your own scent(s).

Write us at ecokvetch at if you have any creative cleaning recipes/ideas you want to share.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Seattle Bans Plastic Bags

They did it—can we?

From the 11/29/11 NY Times:

Seattle Bans Plastic Bags, and Sets a Charge for Paper
By William Yardley

SEATTLE — The City Council here voted unanimously on Monday to ban plastic grocery bags and charge a 5-cent fee on paper bags — and this time city leaders hope the ban actually takes effect.

Three years ago, Seattle city officials became the first in the nation to approve a fee on paper and plastic bags, instituting a charge of
20 cents for each bag provided by many retail stores. The idea was to create a financial incentive to reduce pollution: the fee was supposed to prompt people to bring reusable bags with them to shop.

But before the 2008 fee took effect, the plastic-bag industry led a petition drive that forced the issue onto a citywide ballot. In August 2009, in the midst of the recession and after the industry spent $1.4 million on the campaign, Seattle voters rejected the fee.

“Twenty cents felt kind of punitive, especially for low-income folks,” said Mike O’Brien, a council member whose committee introduced the current bill.

Instead of becoming a leader on the issue, Seattle watched as other cities moved forward with bans and fees.

“There’s a competitive side to seeing who can come up with the most progressive legislation,” said Mr. O’Brien, who was a local Sierra Club leader, and a candidate for the Council, when the bag fee was on the ballot.

Now Seattle is the fourth city in the state to approve a ban, modeling its measure closely on one approved this year in Bellingham. Some larger cities, including San Francisco, Washington and Portland, Ore., have also instituted bans and fees. But plenty of places are still wrestling with the subject. In Los Angeles, the City Council has studied the issue for four years.

Arguments persist about the environmental drawbacks and benefits of each type of bag. Mr. O’Brien said one reason the Council was allowing paper bags was because the city has one of the highest rates in the nation for paper bag recycling, about 85%, while it recycles only about 13% of the 292 million plastic bags distributed in the city. Under the ban, plastic bags could still be provided for produce and bulk grocery items.


Of course we know that the answer is not paper or plastic but reusable. Reusable bags can be made sustainably out of a variety of materials, even recycled plastic, in an effort to keep that substance out of landfills and oceans. The coop carries a variety of reusable bags and we hope to expand the selection in the
near future.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Last Three Workshops to Stop Hydrofracking

We are holding three last workshops to create effective letters commenting on the problems in the DEC's proposed hydrofracking regulations under which hydrofracking could occur in New York State, as early as next year.

The workshops are:
  • Friday, December 16 from 5-7 pm

  • Saturday, December 17, from 3-5 pm

  • Tuesday, January 3 from 3-5 pm
Please help publicize these last workshops by forwarding this information to others on your squad, friends, neighbors, etc. The workshops are open to everyone: coop members and non-members alike.

You don't have to stay for the whole time—just stop by for awhile and write an effective letter to the DEC. It will be mailed for you (no procrastination!)

Governor Cuomo and the DEC seem unmoved by the facts about hydrofracking. See the recent news articles "EPA Sounds Alarm on Fracking in Wyoming" and E.P.A. Links Tainted Water in Wyoming to Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas and Some Blame Hydraulic Fracturing for EarthQuake Epidemic.

Your small time commitment will make a difference—let's protect New York's drinking water and our health from hydrofracking.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mrs. Meyer's Stinks

Mrs. Meyer's

Many environmentally-aware folks have been lured into believing that Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day is a healthy product.

However, if you read the fine print (and the ingredients list) you will see the truth. If you use your nose, you will smell the truth. Mrs. Meyer's uses synthetic ingredients and fragrances.

When you see the term "fragrance" or "parfum" in the ingredients list remember that the fragrance/perfume industry is protected by trade secret laws. This means they are not required to tell you what's in their formulations.

The ingredients that are lumped into the listing fragrance or parfum could include up to 1000 different synthetic chemicals!

Our current toxic chemicals law (the Toxic Substances Control Act) is so outdated and weak that testing has been required on fewer than 2% of the 80,000 chemicals available for use in the United States. Many of these chemicals, especially when they interact, are linked to numerous health problems, like endocrine disruption and neurotoxicity.

The green cleaning business is booming with new products that claim to be "effective alternatives". Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day and other greenwashed products, like Method and SimpleGreen, have a very clever (but misleading) marketing scheme.

Don't waste your hard earned cash on clever marketing. A bottle of castile soap, a box of baking soda, and bottle of vinegar is all you need to keep your home fresh and clean. If you like fragrance, use a few drops of organic essential oil.

Read more at Raganella's blog and see why Mrs. Meyer's Stinks.

This post was originally published on

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

'Tis the Season . . .

To Receive a lot of Junk Mail!!!

The average American receives 41 pounds of junk mail per year and about 44% ends up in landfills. Most of this mail is not made from recycled paper to begin with, so this represents the loss of a great many trees plus water and energy to produce and transport the mail.

Why not opt out of junk mail with one of the free services available, Catalogue Choice or

You should see a noticeable improvement within 6-8 weeks. Some companies print their mailing labels months in advance, so it may take a while for these to stop coming. After 16 weeks, your junk mail should be eliminated by 80 to 95%. In addition to the environmental benefits, opting out of junk mail offers protection against identity theft as junk mail provides thieves with valuable information
about you.

Start the new year right: 41 pounds of junk mail lighter!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Next Electronic Waste Recycling Day

Saturday, December 10, 2011
10:00am - 4:00pm
rain or shine
in Park Slope at P.S. 321
(7th Ave. bet. 1st & 2nd)

A list of acceptable materials can be found here. Accepted items include electronics from households, small businesses (less than 50 employees, please call ahead) and not-for-profits. Appliances such as microwaves, refrigerators, or air conditioners are not accepted.