The Picture Book

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Reduce - $28 Electric and $102 gasoline

In taking small incremental steps toward a more eco-friendly life style, our very FIRST STEP in the personal "reduce" campaign is to minimize energy consumption. After several months of paying attentions to details, we have been progressively reducing our electric bill to finally break below $30 for 2 months now.

I would like to go below $25 eventually.

And we paid just a smidgen over $100 at the gas pump in April. What makes this cut back even more satisfying is that we did it in face of the recent surge in gas price. What I really would like is to break below $50, and even to go car-less.

Incidentally, the office secretary expressed how worried she is over the $450+ per month fuel cost which seems to escalate to no end.

Cheers... to my decision to live close to work.

Monday, April 28, 2008

More Than Carbon Emission and Global Warming - A Warning Sign from the Environment.

I am still feeling the bone-chill from "The Silence of the Bees" last night.

I was thinking, something in nature isn't replaceable with technology, but that our false sense of security and complacency are making us behaving as if the opposite is true. The program showcased an instance of that ignorance.

Very likely even before global warming becomes the real challenge we would have already witnessed something else major.

Something in the air and the water just isn't right. CASE AND POINT: with sick, infected and chemically poisoned bees, the honey produced is found with pollutants.

And it bothers me that this must be a general condition affecting all animals, fish and crops, and that also means everything we eat and breath.

I wonder about the fate of "organic farming."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

"Silence of the Bees"

Bees are disappearing...

This evening while watching the PBS rebroadcast of NATURE episode "Silence of the Bees," I felt a deepest chill down my spine.

During the winter of 2006, the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) strike literally overnight and over one-third of bee hives in the US were abandoned. Scientists scrambled to unravel the mystery but were not able to pinpoint to a single cause despite finding numerous disturbing clues. They thought the AIDS-like epidemic was the result of a perfect storm scenario where bees finally succumbed to an Australian virus following a long-term effect from malnutrition, pesticide toxins and other environmental factors. The bee population, as well as other pollinators like butterflies, has been on an alarming declining trend for years.

The massive disappearing of the bees has dire consequences on farming, food supplies, and world ecology as a whole. I learned just how essential these little buzzing insects have been besides pollinating flowers and producing honey - they are also the pollinator agents responsible for one-third of crops and fruits we consume, such as berries, pears, etc.

One farmer exclaimed "I am scared to death."

It propelled me to think further... Maybe, we have been doing just a bit too much to the environment more than we know, and it seems we do not come remotely close to realize just how much irreversible damage we may have already caused.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Enjoy some google videos - Weekend of April 26th, 2008

Some opinions, news, political snippets, and funnies.

Reduce - The World is Inflating into Reality

I read somewhere a statement made by a financier in a matter-of-fact tone that consumers will cut back only when wallet starts hurting.

This may not be what passionate green minds want to hear, but it is the stone cold truth.

As much as it is a virtue to think beyond self and to care for the environment, pricing is the ultimate bottom line that dictates consumer behaviors. With a booming middle class around the world to join this heated over-consumption race, in particular billions more from China and India, it is little wonder that we are witnessing food shortage, accelerated environmental destruction and even more wars.

We have been asking too much out of this plant, and I think.....


Friday, April 25, 2008

Reduce - A Brotherly Lesson

I asked my Brother to give me some feedback on my blogs, but a little to my surprise he said he didn't know what much to say.

He and his wife already live a very simple life. His in-laws, as of the previous generation who survived extreme hardship through numerous wars, are as frugal and simple can be.

These values, he said, are obvious.

Indeed, our parents and my in-laws, as well as all elderlies we know of, carry with them these very basic values.

In stark contrast the current consumer generation has difficulty embracing the same. The current economic model and the consumerism values, touted as a great triumph of the free market and human freedom, are seemingly misguided fundamentally.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Reduce - "It's the GREEN ECONOMY, Stupid"

Bill was at least half-right.

This week alone I witnessed no less than 10 popular magazines addressing similar issues on human population, food crises , the environment and the climate. The voice of green movement is becoming irrepressibly louder.

While the endless bombardment of information may be difficult to sort through, recognizing the very basic issues at stake is the important first step in finding our own direction. I spent a part of my "Shopping Saturday" among magazines in Borders or Barnes & Noble to educate myself, and I have come to understand issues beyond carbon emissions.

My intuition tells me that ... A GREEN ECONOMY is, necessarily, shaping up to supersede FREE ECONOMY.

It is all too obvious that our Earth has only so much to give.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Reduce - You Gotta Drive Slow, and Less

I wish that people can just drive slower, and best not at all when not needed.

Friends, keep in mind the basic physics that kinetic energy is "one-half mass velocity squared". When you cruise at 80 mph instead of 60 mph, the 33% faster speed requires you to use 100% more energy. The real world calculation is of course far more complex, but it is a definitive conclusion that you are paying far more for your wasteful speeding habit.

By not waste money and gas, in the process you are saving some lives from accidents and giving a little more back to the environment.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Reduce - Take Pride

TAKE PRIDE IN LIVING THE SIMPLE LIFE. And it is the best way to "go green" regardless of the endless deceptive "greenwashing" ads.

The more you reduce and the simpler you live, the less you have to worry about what real eco-friendly items to buy.

Owning a hybrid SUV, an extravagant green-couch, or excess hemp-made T-shirts all misses the point... and miss the point big. "Buy Green" should only be applied as the legitimate consumer movement towards food and the basic items needed to sustain life. Others should be taken as "discretionary" as they truly are.

The strong pride I take in trying to living a simpler life is what drives me to keep doing more of what I am doing against the endless temptations to buy and to waste.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Reduce - Bring Your Own Lunch

One thing that marriage brought into my life is how much more enjoyable dinner and lunch have become. As a single I didn't care much for eating out not only because of the expenses but also because of the plastic and paper waste that ate away at my guilty conscience as I shove them down the waste bin.

Nowadays I bring my fork and lunch box to work. I waste not a single item.

That may not sound like much, but in one year I decrease my trash output by no less than 10 bins worth of waste.

I am merely returning to the basics that I should have been practicing all along.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Reduce - Drive and Shop Smart, and Enjoy With Your Spouse

Have a smart shopping plan is essential to REDUCE repetitive driving and wasteful shopping. On our "Shopping Saturday," we aim to be gas-efficient and time-saving, to shop smart and to enjoy a nice Saturday out.

We follow a route, in order, almost without detour:

- First we visit the post office or the bank if needed.

- We head on to Borders or Barnes & Noble to relax among books and magazines. My particular favorite is The Economist magazine.

- We may opt to enjoy a cozy lunch at a local venue. Exploring lesser-known, ethnic and economical restaurants and eateries is a part of our worldly joy and as our simple reward.

- We visit Staples, Best Buy, Walmart, etc. to get any needed items.

- We run through the grocery stores in one stretch: Giant, Safeway, Trader Joe's, Mom's My Organic Market, Shoppers Food Warehouse.

- In Giant or Shoppers we will get our favorite latest releases from Red Box dvd rental. We have enjoyed great movies such as "No Country for Old Men" and "Kite Runner" for a measly $1 per night on Saturday evenings.

- We return home to enjoy a nice dinner made with fresh ingredients, and then our chosen DVD of the week :)

- As we shop together, we are just so much more efficient and selective about the items we are buying. It really adds to the saving, not to mention the nice time we are spending together.

All the chores and shopping are done in less than a full day, and our weekdays are simply left open to just work and relax in the evening.

Another way we enjoy our Saturdays is to explore different local neighborhoods on different weekends, with slight modifications given what is available, whether a local festival or farmers' market might take place. We will always make an effort to incorporate all into a smart, efficient, productive multi-purpose plan, to enjoy on a nice Saturday.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Reduce - Walk to Work

Although vast distances in the US makes conservation efforts particularly challenging, we can still make good choices for the sake of the environment. I believe that commuting constitutes most of the gasoline guzzling activities, and this is where I made a conscious choice to live close to work to dramatically REDUCE my carbon footprint.

- I can walk to work within 20 minutes, and get a exercise as well.

- I REDUCE gasoline consumption and carbon emission, and save as much as $100 per month.

- One less car on the road helps to REDUCE traffics, which in turn helps to REDUCE more carbon emissions, and so on.

- Close distance to work results in cheaper car insurance, longer car lifetime, etc, which are more beneficial and economical in the long run.

- We eliminate the need for a second car, thus further helping the environment, traffics and our savings.

- Living close to work has been good for my soul. I sleep a bit longer and return home earlier, I do not get frustrated by traffic, and I do not worry about accidents, car breaking down, or getting speeding tickets.

- We still cannot avoid driving at times, but we schedule and consolidate our driving trips wisely and efficiently.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Reduce - Reduce, Reduce and Reduce some more...

As a college student constantly on the move I had learned the virtue of being a minimalist. But books and coffee were still two vices that I had to learn to contain when I had decided to truly "REDUCE". It took lots of determination to mentally let go but slowly I sold or gave away my books, and cut down my coffee consumption to one half-decaf cup in the morning. A rather surprising side benefit is the substantial saving which I am saving up for something else useful.

Nowadays I utilize libraries, browse in bookstores or borrow from friends, and I have not bought a new book in the past 5 years. As for coffee I have stopped splurging at Starbucks, and brew my own in the morning if at all. I am learning to find alternative ways to enjoy without having to waste so much, and finding these ways is a part of the fun.

Once I handled my vices, reducing other items becomes much easier.

I measure my "REDUCE" success by the amount of excess I have accumulated over time. As simple of a life as I live, I can still end up with some excess over time, like DVDs and clothings, for which I find ways to reuse, give away, or recycle, and most importantly, continue to learn to not have them in the first place.

What keeps me on this narrow path is the understanding that "waste" leads to the "destruction of environment".

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Reduce - Buy Right and Cook Light

My wife and I enjoy our dinner as the most elemental part of life - going green, eating right and enjoying the art of cooking all come together in this few hours of daily ritual which we take time to appreciate.

- We buy fresh and preferably organic vegetables and fruits from local stores like Safeway, Giants, Trader Joe's and Mom's Organics.

- We limit the amount of meat, milk and eggs we buy as our way to reduce our indirect demands on livestocks, feeds and agricultural activities.

- We include a certain amount of poultry (chicken) in our diet in place of red meat as another way to reduce the environmental impact.

- We hardly eat fast food, junk food or canned food because of the bad nutritional value and the industrial processes, transports and packagings that are destructive to natural resources and the environment.

- We are even forgoing packaged organic cereals or granola bars, and have begun to buy bulk to start making our own cereals and bars.

- We cook lightly, and we discipline ourselves not to over eat.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Don't Need to Recycle What You Don't Waste

"REDUCE" is the singularly most important way to start saving the environment. "Reuse" and "Recycle" are only as good to the extend that you minimize waste in the first place. My wife and I have recently begun to pay attention to all aspects of our lives to REDUCE as much as we can:

- We live close to work, minimize driving, and consolidate shoppings in "shopping Saturdays" which we also enjoy as our time together.

- We live simple and minimize possessions. We do not have cable TV nor any luxury-based service.

- We do not own any high-power electronics or machines. We use energy-efficient light bulbs and we unplug electronics when not in use. We do not use A/C or central heating, and we hang cloths to dry naturally.

- We do not buy junk food, or much packaged and processed food. We cook daily, lightly and we do not over eat also as an incentive to stay slim and fit.

- Yes, we also reuse and recycle.

I estimate our saving to be minimally $500 per month by this green-based cost cutting; but what is more important is that we leave behind smaller carbon foot print.

We aim to do more, by continuing to REDUCE.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Start of a Green Day - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

"Why should I care?" - a question posted at the Visitor Center at the NASA Goddard Flight Space Center.

Today, I plunged into this surreal yet far-reaching world of the blogsphere to begin my personal site devoted exclusively green awareness. On this personal journey of green transformation, I hope to carry a few fellow green minds along, and to always keep in mind:


Just as our ancestors had done to live in harmony with the challenging but natural world.