LVM's Environmental Action Blog

The purpose of this blog is to convey the importance that life choices and daily decisions have on the environment. I will, as a member of the kayaking community, effectively convey the importance and immediacy of environmental issues written in the paddling vernacular.

Friday, January 28, 2005

more at home enviro--straw bale

Image Source

Some really fabulous and environmentally friendly innovations aren’t new at all: straw bale as a building material for instance. This agricultural waste product may sound like something the three little pigs warned you about, but can offer some major advantages over conventional building materials.
1. Inexpensive—farmers are giving this stuff away and incinerating what they can’t get rid of. Pay some transportation costs and it’s yours.
2. Allows for a unique building style—rounded corners, exposed beams: beautiful
3. It breathes!—using plaster for your walls allows the whole house to literally breathe. That’s some great news for people with allergies and/or young children.
Worries about increased flammability, decomposition, and mold and mildew problems are non-issues. Check out Straw Building to answer some these and other frequently asked questions.
Once you’re ready and raring to go here’s some contact info on where, who, and how:
Mike Skinner . . . . 800-327-9429 (that's 1-800-EASYHAY) or
Straw Locator
Hay Exchange

Great builders have been putting together some really amazing straw bale homes in many different locations and environments. The mountains of western North Carolina have a very wet and humid environment, but some beautiful stray bale homes can and have been built here. Check out Sustainable Structures
for perhaps the best and most personal design and construction team, if you’re ready to go all out. Tell Evan that Mefford sent you, and you’ll be in like Flin.

This is one of Evan’s very beautiful design and construction projects:

Sustainable Structures

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

increasing energy efficiency at home--windows

Increasing the energy efficiency of a home can be the first step towards a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Windows can be a big area where energy is lost: energy especially from either heating or cooling the home. Look for high R value/low U value
Here are some tips to help make your windows less of an energy suck:
1. Control your air leaks—caulking and weather stripping work great and are cheap, but replacing the window frame can be
just as cost effective
2. Buy double pane glass windows—we’re going for high R values/low U values here
3. Wood framing—has higher R value than aluminum and are more environmentally friendly than vinyl.
4. Storm Windows can also make a cheap and energy saving alternative
5. Glazing materials
a. Low-emissivity glass (low-e)
b. Heat-absorbing glass
c. Reflective glass: help with controlling heat gain during the summer
d. Argon gas filled: increases R value

Images from
Fine Home Building

Thursday, January 20, 2005

renovating the castle--green style

So you’re making some improvements on your home. That's great, because more than a third of the energy use in the US occurs in the residential sector. Whether they are big changes or little ones, this is an ideal to green-up your home. Recently some great energy and water saving appliances have entered the market at competitive prices. Like clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers, solar hot water heaters, refrigerators, and more. Look for the energy star for all appliances.

When scoping out a washing machine for your clothes, consider some front-loading models. Front loaders use less water, because the tub doesn’t have to fill all the way up. These machines also spin faster; so the clothes come out requiring less time in the dryer.
Refrigerators have come a long way in the last few years, and today’s models are so much more efficient. That old ‘fridge is an electricity black hole and can cost an extra $100 a year or more to keep it around.
Solar hot water heaters are also great, especially if you live somewhere with ample sunlight. These babies work the best in areas in the southwestern States. If you’d rather just jump straight into power generation: look for photovoltaic units. They're good all over and can make stylish and functional roofing.

Check out this site for more info about setting up photovoltaic and other solar technologies at your own home:
Solar Depot
Furniture is also a biggie. Companies like Green Sage ( Green Sage ) and Ikea ( Ikea ) have been working progressively toward a more environmentally friendly production of their goods and catalogs. Of course there is also the option of buying used furniture: preventing some big items from making that inevitable trip to the landfill.

Wow organically grown hemp covering these items. Beautiful.

first 'zine article

photo by Shanna Powell

A top ten list for the next ‘Zine. My idea was more people are likely to look at and read a top ten list rather than an article, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't read the article as well. Daniel was all about it; so here it is along with the two adjoining photos.

The top ten things to do right now to help lessen your environmental impact
1. Use compact florescent light bulbs: These babies are amazing. Get them at the hardware store: they fit all size sockets, use way less energy, last much longer (like years), and will save you money. Bitchin’.
2. Turn off all appliances when not using them: This may seem like a no-brainer but can make a big difference. Lights, computers, everything.
3. Insulate your hot water heater: Another biggie. Because of water’s high specific heat, lots of energy is required to keep that water hot. A little insulation can make a big impact (on your energy bill, too). You can also turn down the water heater’s temperature a few degrees: anything over 115 degrees can be excessive and wasteful.
4. Walk or bike on short trips: Good for you, good for the environment; what’s not to like?
5. Use BioDiesel or other alternative fuels: if you have a diesel car that is. Check out or to find out when, where, why and how.
6. Carpool: Even if it’s just once a week, ridesharing can be worth the extra effort and sacrifice. Long Range or short range. Check out: or
7. Use public transportation: A great one for a stress free night on the town or any time or you can manage: even if you only go every so often. One trip helps.
8. Buy organic foods: Pesticides are bad; for you, for me, for everybody.
9. Spend your money in the neighborhood: Locally owned business keep the money around the area and can help limit big industry and the need for outside goods brought in on trucks.
10. Steer clear of fast food: Genetically engineered potatoes and other sci-fi vegetables; industrially grown, hormone and anti-biotic injected meats; need we say more. These chains actually make a pretty substantially negative ecological impact; not to mention the impact on your person. Check out Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser; it’ll blow your hair back.
To purchase, "Fast Food Nation" =>
Click Here

photo by Amos Shuman

Friday, January 14, 2005

calculate your impact

Have you ever wondered what kind of environmental impact you were actually making? Well, there is a way to estimate how heavy your footsteps feel to Mother Earth. Recently some websites have popped-up that can quantify through a simple questionnaire what your “ecological footprint” is and how it relates to other individuals living elsewhere around the globe.
The results can be pretty humbling and hopefully inspiring as well.=>
Click Here

getting to the pump--BioDiesel

“Great,” you say. “I’m convinced. Let’s do it.” Converting you car to run on used vegetable oil, now we’ll get into the ways and means of the process. To convert the oil from the local restaurant is a relatively easy process that any ambitious person can get into within his or her own garage and will certainly be a topic of later posts. Immersion Research, the leading paddler’s gear and clothing manufacturer, currently has a set-up within their factory in Pennsylvania. Also, BioDiesel Co-ops are popping up all over the country and can be a great local source for fuel. Locally, here in Asheville..... (Stay tuned for an update with directions; for now contact Brian and Solon: The National Biodiesel Board is a good place to look for distributors and sources within your own area, as well as (believe it or not) retail filing areas. Looking for retail filling areas and other places to buy your very own fryer fuel? Click Here
Don’t worry that your backing yourself into a corner by converting your existing diesel only engine, because you will still be able to run your car entirely on dinosaur juice if need be. Also, old junkers and the brand new VW TDI’s alike can equally be converted. So don’t be scared that your engine is exempt, because it’s not. Some newer vehicles, like the fancy new TDI pictured above, come vege-ready; everyone else will have to convert their engine. The only conversion associated with long-term biodiesel usage in older vehicles (pre-1995) is the changing of natural rubber parts in the fuel delivery system to synthetic materials. These parts are usually found as seals and hoses on the injector pump and fuel tank. Parts are very cheap and labor would take a couple of hours. That’s right; running on fryer juice is that easy.
Look, BioDiesel is so easy, not even old people are confused.
Some more good news that may help you motivate to track down your local grease pump is some tax incentives. That’s right you skeptics: George W. Bush has signed into law the first BioDiesel tax incentive program, part of a larger goal of increasing domestic energy security. Which, to this author at least, is a much better move than drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. To find out more about more information and eligibility requirements: Click Here
Frankly, BioDiesel is so exciting everyone is talking about it,; just listen to Willie Nelson and Niel Young. Click Here

For more information or general inquiries concerning the huge subject of biodiesel as a fuel, I recommend visiting this site: Click Here

Image from
Sunlight Solar

Saturday, January 08, 2005

getting into BioDiesel

The 2003 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, Biodiesel ready rig (42 mpg regular diesel, too).
To read a Canadian Driver review of the TDI, Click Here

Daniel and I have been talking about biodiesel from the very beginning of this misadventure, because unless you are willing to make some serious sacrifices, you need a car. As kayakers, especially, we are bound to our fossil fuel powered vehicles to transport us to and from the river. More often than not we need them for shuttle as well: that’s at least two gas-guzzlers for each boating venture. We can choose to drive more fuel-efficient cars, but that may be a difficult choice for some.
Hark! Another option exists: BioDiesel.
BioDiesel is essentially a combustible fuel refined from cooking oil that can be run in modified diesel engines. Just like petroleum, the same reaction occurs: the combustion of a carbon chain in the presence of oxygen with the byproducts being carbon dioxide and water.
Now you may say that C02 is a green house gas, and this isn’t that big of a step forward. However when considering the source of the fuels as they relate to carbon cycles; there is a big difference between the two fuels. The gas we use to power our cars comes from oil, which has been mined from the ground. This oil is essentially fossilized organic matter (carbon chains) from millions of years in the past. The carbon that makes up this organic matter was initially atmospheric: carbon dioxide; plants take in CO2, produce tissue, and emit oxygen as a waste. So the carbon dioxide that is coming out of our tail pipes is just being reintroduced into the grand carbon cycle. The problem is we are putting this fossilized carbon back into the atmosphere at a much faster rate (like millions of times faster) than the earth can take it back in: the fossilization process takes quite a while.
The carbon chains in vegetable oil are on a much shorter carbon cycle; the carbon dioxide produced during its combustion was taken out of the atmosphere very recently; so the net impact of its reintroduction is much smaller.

To watch a commercial about biodiesel from Choren Industries GmbH =>
Click Here

To learn more about Choren Industries =>
Click Here

Another big advantage, in polluting terms, is BioDiesel combustion produces no sulfur oxide compounds. Sulfur oxide compounds are a major component of acid rain (hence forth to be referred to as acid deposition: the new fancy term) and smog. Sulfur dioxide is a hydrophilic molecule, meaning it draws in water molecules, and in turn disperses light. This affect can be seen here especially in the southeastern US with our decreasing visibility. Also the acids formed by SO2, sulfurous and sulfuric, are very strong and their affects on vegetation can been readily seen at high elevations.

The trees atop Mt. Mitchell and Clingman’s Dome show their scars from acid deposition.

Friday, January 07, 2005

the beginning

Welcome to lvm’s environmental action corner. Before you write us off as just another bunch of green elitists, consider: This is not just another group of environmentalists standing on a soap box, preaching about how and why things need to change. We are not prima donnas. We are, however, very enthusiastic about the environmental issues of the day and our ability and opportunity to make a positive impact. This blog will journal the collaboration between an environmental scientist and the kayaking media conglomerate, LVM. Our goals are simple:

1. To bring to the forefront all aspects of the unavoidable relationship between the natural environment and those individuals who enjoy it, specifically whitewater kayakers.

2. To highlight the methods which environmentally conscious individuals within the whitewater community are using to make a positive difference.

3. To introduce to as many people as possible the ways and means of living a more conservative lifestyle.

4. To make being green easy and cool.
Using lvm’s status as an established media outlet, we hope to show people through video segments, magazine articles, and websites how to make a positive impact. In our first project, for example, we want to connect people with the resources and information to switch their cars over to biodeisel, while telling the story of a person or business that already has.
So join us for a journey into something new and exciting. See and learn how easy you too can make a positive impact on the natural environment that we as kayakers have grown to love and enjoy.