25 Days of Green
A Normal Teen Trying to be Green
The Calendar. The 25 Days
Day 1: Water Bottle Switch
I love my plastic water bottles. Almost all of this year every night I have ended my day with the refreshing bottle of Ice Mountain. But now that the 25 days are starting.This habit needs to stop. Water bottles are simply terrible for the environment, for the climate, and potentially for me and you.
After repeated studies water bottles have been proven as massive eye sores in terms of human waste. Americans alone purchase 29 billion bottles a year, and of those 29 billion, around 80% aren't recycled. Amassing to 23 Billion bottles going to landfills. Plastic bottled water lasts millennia in landfills lasting at least 1000 years releasing many toxic chemicals as the plastic erode.
The amount of fuel and oil used to create the water bottles in the first place is staggering as well, with the us production of water bottles costing 17 million barrels of crude oil. According to the SunTimes, 1.5 million barrels can power 100,000 people. The amount of fuel spent on water bottles just in the US could power over 1,100,000 peoples homes.
All of those statistics don't even account for the amount of oil realized and burned in the transportation of the water. Fiji, as they advertise, flies and releases 2,500 tons of transportation related pollution, with each bottle releasing 562 grams of Greenhouse Gases or 1.2 pounds per bottle.
Now all of this sounds scary, but it really hasn’t convinced me to switch to tap.
What did was the price and the danger of bottled water to me. And potentially to you.
According to bottledwaterblues.com the average bottle of water costs from $0.25 to $2, while the average tap bottle is a penn or less. That is a massive price difference and worth the switch to me.
Bottled water also contain polyethylene terephthalate which is a chemical, when broken down that according to NDRC, can influence your hormone level in ways you body cannot control. As A teenager I already have enough hormonal issues as it is, so that why I have decided to cut off the bottles and hit the tap every night. Over the 25 days I will work on finding an eco friendly green water bottle to replace my iced mountainy friends, Such as Camelbak or Sigg.
If you decide your going to stick with plastic water bottles, be part of the 20% that recycles them. As it takes less energy, less fuel to be burnt, and can produce things like new playgrounds or paper.
You know its time for a change though, you know its time to ditch the Ice Mountain.
Day 2: Junk Mail
Almost every day I see my father going through mail that he never opens. He simply, stares at it, tears it in half, and throws it in a pile of the other 10 useless letters he get that day. That junk mail is destroying our climate and environment, and it is time to change that.
According, to the U.S postal service 100 billion pieces of junk mail are sent every year, over $350 million dollars is spent deipsoing of the then thrown away junk mail (2% of it is actually responded to) and people like my father spend on average 8 months of their life opening junk mail they never even use.
And its impact on the climate is enormous as well, the amount of carbon emissions released in the shipping and production of the useless mail totals the amount 9 million cars burn annually. The production of the mail and papers like it is the ;argest consumer of water, and almost all of the mail goes into the trash in the first place. Its almost all useless nd hurting are climate.
For me and my family, I decided to stop being one of the millions of americans receiving over 41 pounds of junk mail eau year. Today I signed up for 41Pounds.org a service that eliminates you junk mail by contacting the most popular sources, and for the rest of my catalogs I used DMAchoice to eliminate the mail not on the 41Pounds list
The process took around a half an hour. And now, for the rest of the year, I wont be contributing to the vicious climate hurting cycle. After all, it is just “junk”.
Day 3: Vampire Energy
I don't know, there was something about this little action that was particularly satisfying. Today I pledged to try to eliminate the vampire energy in my house. Vampire energy is the energy that is consumed by devices even when they are off because they continue to have an electrical current run through them while they are not being used.
This is a massive inefficient waste of energy, money, and hurts our climate as well so today I tried to slay the vampire in my home. Simply by just pulling the plug. And pulling that plug is sure satisfying.
Almost 12% of all residential power is spent on vampire energy as each household uses around 1,300 kWh of it a year. This energy wasted is a massive cost as well, $4-8 Billion is spent in the US to fund this wasted energy.
And all of it can be prevented, by just pulling a plug.
So thats what I did, I went to each room before I went to sleep looking for an indue device or a device still warm, or consuming power and just unplugged it or turned off the power strip. Simple as that.
Pow! Just unplugging the computers for the night, I am saving the house 444 watts. Next the chargers, over 200 watts. Bam! The xbox goes silent saving 276 watts. Kapow! I finish off the by turning off my tv and sound system power strips saving over 700 watts just over the night. I felt like a power saving superhero, and all did was unplug cords.
In total that is over 1,600 watts. If I continue saving that amount of energy every night for an entire year, that would in total save around 3000 pounds of coal from being burned, and around 9000 pounds of Co2 being released.
The simple death of the vampire is good for the home, the wallet, and the planet.
Day 4: The Canopy Project
There is a reason, why the phrase “just plant a tree” is synonymous with eco activists and green people. Simply because it is effective at reduce and taking in carbon emissions, providing clean oxygen, and being a crucial part of the eco system. But we Americans, generally like to have everything done for us, just look at fast food, and the same policy apples to most people when it comes to planting trees. Thats why projects like the Earth Day’s Canopy Project exist.
The project has the simple motto, that for each dollar they receive, they will plant one tree in a country that needs it. Again, like killing the vampire energy, I am proud to say that I planted 25 trees today by simply making a donation to the project.
This organization has planted over 1.5 million trees all around the world. For example in the earthquake torn Hati they planted over 500,000 trees and they are going to continue to plant them until they reach 10 million.
Be an American, Feel good about yourself, without actually doing anything, and donate to the Canopy Project
Day 5: Ted Steck Interview
For my first interview, with an expert on green living, Dr. Steck, a professor exodus from the University of Chicago, was a quite the inspiring expert. In the our conversation we adressed almost everything from the impact of our living, to the things we eat, to the way you vote, to becoming an eco-activist and how to make a difference. Dr. Steck is the quintessence of the person I am trying to become in terms of my impact on the environment and what I am trying to inspire the readers of this project to become as well. See the interview below.
Day 6: Support Shaheen-Portman Act
Well Today I decided to support the Shaheen-Portman Bill by sending our senator Dick Durbin a letter encouraging him to support the act. The act, encourages environmentally friendly building codes, manufacturing incentives, and government energy efficiency.
I have a feeling this act, with the release of the IPCC report and the press that it is getting, will become very popular anyway, but just to add a little umph of support, I sent him a letter anyway.
Because when it really comes down to it national reform by the government on environmental policy is necessary to change things on a mass scale and truly make a difference. I think simply sending a letter is the place to start.
Dear Mr. Durban,
Hi my name is Matt Stockmal, and I am a sophomore at Hinsdale Central High School in Hinsdale, Illinois. And am I writing you to ask you to support the Shaheen-Portman. Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act.
As you website states, you are an advocate for the protection our climate and environmental resources that the United States has, and you also support the Clean Air Act. If you are truly worried about the climate change destroying the next generations future (as I sure am worried), then you should support the Shaheen-Portman bill as it cuts energy costs in the government, increases the standard on environmentally friendly model building, as well as promotes incentive for manufacturers to create product using environmentally friendly generators and electric motors.
A little bit about me, right now, for my final Earth Science Semester project, I am embarking on an experience I call 25 Days of Green in which, for 25 days, each day, I am doing something to reduce my or the world’s footprint, using a product that promotes eco-friendly living, or talking to people who really know how to live green lives. For one of these days I’ve chosen to write to you about this bill.
It is incredibly important to me that the government adapts to the changing climate as you probably already know the IPCC released a report recently begging for reform and to cut emissions, and I believe this act will contribute in doing so.
I know I am just a high schooler, but please take my words and the Shaheen-Portman Bill into consideration, cause as you said, the environment matters, and we need to take action t save it.
Day 7: Carpooling
Day 7: Carpooling
Day 7: Carpooling
Day 7: Carpooling
Day 8: Air-Drying Clothes
Lets face it, I live in a household with five people, and almost all of them go through an outfit a day (besides my brother Michael who is still lea ringing that taking a shower every 4 weeks doesn't “cut-it”). So that is a lot of laundry, we do around 4 loads of laundry a week. This hurts our home energy bill and our energy consumption as well.
Not in Hinsdale, but in other places, dryers are considered an energy consuming luxury. Almost 70% of the electricity bill is used to power the dryer, totaling on average over $100 dollars a month.
If one were to air dry their clothes all year round, it would save around $1,200 as well as over 2,400 pounds of carbon emission spent to power all of the loads.
So that is why, today, when it is 88 degrees outside and sunny, I am going to air-dry my clothes from the wash today.
The process was overall very simple, on my porch there were hooks usually used for hanging plants and I simply tied a string to connect them and attached clips that cost $4 and Walla, a state of the art clothes drier. More hardcore air drying racks can be found on places like Real Goods for less than $100.
There are many benefits to air drying other than the saving of energy, and that is the calming feeling when you hang them in the sun, as well as the reduction of chemicals used to produce dry clothes.
Out of all the things I’ve done in the 25 days though, I think this one is the most inconvenient in terms of amount of effort required. Though the benefits are great for clothes drying, I probably wont stick to this method for long. But for those who want a relaxing, chemical free way, to spend sometime outside, try air drying clothes.
Day 9: Changing Lightbulbs
This is another action that is s easy to do, yet feels really good. I changed my lights today from regular incandescent 19 bulbs, the standard bulbs we al think of to LSGC A19 Omni Bulbs. There is tons of technical gist for why these bulbs are great, but when it comes down to it they are almost no different from the bulbs I replaced and they consume a lot less energy and are better for the environment as well.
Replacing my lightbulbs was a simple as before, simply taking off the cover on my lamp unscrewing the incandescent and then screwing in the A19 bulb.
The initial differences when holding both my old bulb and the new LSGC one were the weight and the heat. This was probably foolish of me but I grabbed the incandescent bulb right after turning off the electricity and it was scalding hot. The A19 Bulb has had almost no heat produced from it even after vein on for several hours.
The weight between the bulbs was also interesting, the incandescent seemed to be filled with only a wire and glass yet still felt heavier than the complex, yet glossed over, interior of the A19. I don't know when weight is ever a serious consideration in purchasing lightbulbs, but just something noted.
When I first turned on the newly replaced lights, the A19 filled the room more than my incandescent. Surprised I thought there was ghost light or I was being more optimistic because of their efficiency, but it turns out the A19 actually is spreading more light.
By means of their omni directional light filter, the A19 spreads the light around my bedroom more than there was ever before.
And now we get to the good part, the energy efficiency, these bulbs are 80% more efficient than regular incandescents, meaning your saint 80% on the average lighting cost of my room, that is amazing and all I did was unscrew and screw.
The light will also last way longer than my incandescent as it is set to last over 50,000 hours compared to the average 1,000 of the incandescent.
And after living with these for a few days, I haven't thought once, whoa I'm in a sanitation room, or the light the light, it burns! the A19 emits whitelight very similar to the incandescent.
Overall, changing your lightbulbs with LSGC or with any energy star lighting solution is the way to go for the long term. The benefits are immediate and the cane is minimal, act now and light your living the green way.
Day 10: Melissa Burlingame
Chapter 11: Toyota Dealership Interview
Day 13-14: Solar Panels
The day of the solar panel
Well, thanks to Nokero solar systems as well as Voltiac Systems, I was allowed to try out some great consumer grade solar panels for the everyday use. Thankfully during the week of me trying these out Iit has been sunny and in the 80s throughout the week. Making it the prime time for solar panel charging.
In essence solar panel use is easy to make a habit of and if a little bit of thought is put into it, totally ditching home electricity power is possible. Trust me, I have done it, and it feels, like almost all the other days before this, great.
When I opened the packaging of the Voltiac systems panel it was overweling the amount of adapters and cords that came with the package. But the general set up is simple. The solar panel is connected to a battery, and the battery has an out input in which you can plug in your specific adapter for charging, and then the adapter goes into the device (in my case my Macbook).
When it comes to fully charging the battery in this solar panel,I have never seem to have successfully done it, except for when I cheated and plugged the battery into an AC outlet and it charged fully within a night. Voltiac reports that with 14.5 hours of sunlight the battery will charge fully, even off 1.5 hours of sunlight the battery can chafe a cellphone fully.
The real experience I have had was trying to find ways to get this thing out into the full sunlight for as long as possible without it being stolen. Being as it is $339 retail price, I was very protective of my panels. My most effective method of keeping it out in the sun is attaching it to my beloved 1997 Acura C.L., who I call Gandalf.
I simply took the straps on the back of the case then weaved them through the sunroof on gandalf, and then clipped then and tightened them around the sunroof and closed it shut. this process basically clamped the solar panel on the top of the vehicle allowing me to drive worry free of it faling off.
The problem is, other people on the road really worry. I have been pulled over by many people who think my laptop case is just sitting on my roof as I drive non chalantly at 60mph on the highway. One man loudly laid on the horn and followed me for a few minutes until I stopped and he screamed “You almost lost your laptop!!!!!”.
Like to the other five people who tried to pull me over, I responded “Just a solar panel!” The driver than apologized and was on his way. So in short, if your putting a solar panel on the car, make sure you make it obvious its a solar panel.
The nokero solar panel was just as fun to find a way to store. Gandalf’s parts fall off him randomly and frequently and this week it was his left rear-view mirror. Instead of gluing the mirror back on, I decided this was the prime opportunity for solar panel magic. The nokero panel fit wonderfully in the side mirror of gandalf. Keeping the usb port open for use, I puttied it into the mirror frame, and now it collects power for whenever i need phone charging in the car. I bow, it’s pretty ingenious.
In terms of a performance, the nokero panel is obviously smaller and meant less for smart devices and more for basic phones, but the panel can charge my Galaxy S4 to around half of its battery and for being an in car charger it is definitely sufficient. The voltaic on the other hand does a great job of charging my mac to almsot completely full but usually on average it charged around 45% of my battery.
These panels have been very fun to use and their benefits are obvious, they save electricity cost, energy use, and are overall sustainable for the long run and I again thank the Nokero and Voltiac Systems for the opportunity to use their panels.
Day 15: Solio Solar Panel
This just in! I received a package from Solio with a testing unit of the Solio CLASSIC2 solar charger and of the three i have received this seems to have the most portability and interesting design.
I received the box over the weekend and I am honest running out of things to charger, my Macbook is charged by the solar panel from Voltiac System and my phone is charged around halfway by the Nokero solar panel I installed into my 1997 Acura Cl whom I call Gandalf.
I decided that this would charge the rest of my phone ay home and the CLASSIC2 has an interesting design. Folded out , it is three different solar panels charging to the same 3.7V/3,200mAh Li-Poly battery and charger in around of day or sun. The folding makes it prtical for travel and camping but for everyday use a larger panel makes more sense.
The power in the battery can be accessed through a usb just like a regular AV charger so it was super easy to charge my phone much like it is for the Nokero panel. Both panels never seem to chafe my Galaxy S4 all the way full though.
One of the most unique parts about Solio’s panels though is the pencil concept. So the package first came with a pencil and I was utterly confused as to why but it is used to get maximum sun exposure for the panel. How one does that is you stick the pencil through the panels and then find the place where a shadow isn't made, this place is where the panels are getting direct sunlight and has the fastest charging and that is dang ingenious.
I never did really end up using that feature as it was mostly left on my windowsill during the school days, but the charging capabilities were just as i expected nonetheless.
Overall a solid experience with another consumer grade solar charge for normal people. Consider one of these if you feel guilty about plugging into the power sucking vampire that is your AV every day just to see the latest tweets.
Day 16: Composting
Well today is now i believe the 10th day i have been composting all of my scraps using my urban composter. Thanks to urban composter I was given a compost bin a little over a week ago and it makes composting for normal people possible. The process is simple, I took the food scraps I had for dinner, then threw them into the compost bin and used a plastic plate to press them in. I thin sprayed a scentless bottle of what i believe are microorganisms like fungi onto my food, I closed the air tight seal, and I was done for the night. Simple easy and I am about to see tonight if it was effective. What should be produced is a soil that can be added to my lawn after the draining of liquid out of the front of the com posters.
Overall this process was super simple thanks to the small and odorless composter and there are many benefits to combusting and that includes reducing your food waste thats goes straight to landfills imitating the amount of methane released by the decomposing foods. You spend less on fertilizer as the humus soil produced by the microorganisms is rich in nutrients and able to absorb lots of water making your pants more likely to grow.
Composting also makes the soil more enriched according to the EPA as the humus has the ability to rejuvenate malnutrition soils as well as take out chemicals that are not good for the soil such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Overall this composting experience was a great one because i didn't notice it. I literally had to change my lifestyle in one way and that was instead of clearing my plate into the garbage disposal i cleaned it into the composter. That was it, and now i produced less waste and helped our lawn out. A win win for almost no work.
Day 19, 20, 21: Meatless Mondays
Although it seems like cheating putting all these days together, this day was big. I celebrated meatless mondays as wel as finally was able to cook the organic local meals from fresh Ingredients. Thanks to the help Door to Door Organics and Irv and Shelly's Fresh Picks!
Today I went meatless and cocked a meat free stir fry with fresh organic and local ingredients from two services willing to help me out on my journey. Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks and Door to Door Organics. Both serves connect with local organic farmers get fresh fruits and vegetables and then deliver them directly to the door of people trying to eat healthy and green like me.
Eating local and how you eat makes a huge difference in ones environmental footprint. When one eats meat they are supporting the growing of cattle, cattle take lots of energy and greenhouse gasses to produce they also produce methane while living. Over 15% of all the greenhouse gasses produced are made through commercial agriculture. This number is set to grow as meat consumption is set to grow 76% by 2050.
This is why companies like Irv and Shelly’s and Door to Door Organics are set on making a difference. When one east local wether meat or not they are cutting off the middlemen in the food industry. By eating in season and locally, good like strawberries don't have to travel thousands of miles using hundreds of pounds of fossil fuels to get to our grocery stores. Farmers markets and Services like Irv and Shelly’s and Door to Door Organics take out that middle man and make it convenient to eat green and local. And not to boast, but the stir fry made with those ingredients was fabulous.
Both companies generally have the same business model and delivered packages directly to my door filled with organic fruits and vegetables from pears, to avocados, to kale, to bananas, tons of different fruits and vegetables that me and my family have been munching on over the past few weeks.
The quality of the food was generally great on both ends as things lie fresh carrots and bananas are incredibly tasty, some of the fruits like the pear were severely bruised and not ripe so that was bummer though.
So through cooking this stir fry and refusing to eat meat, I have joined a movement known as Meatless Monday which most people have already heard about. It encourages people to cut down on meat consumption for their health and for the environment. The concept of meatless mondays is applied to high school cafeterias near us already. Evanston Township High School in Evanston already practices meat free mondays in their cafeteria.
Its not a bad idea for our cafeteria as well. Hinsdale Central use to pride itself on environmentally friendly action with the red goes green campaign and I think we should revitalize that spirit by going meatless on mondays.
Day 22: Lowering Water Heater
Water heaters consume a lot of energy, to keep the average water at around 140 degrees throughout the year it will cost over $400 dollars a year, added onto the over $50 dollars spent on energy the water heater consumes on standby.
What the water heater actually contributes to your life is the hot water to clean dishes, around (130 degree water is required to completely cleanse of germs) as well as the hot water used for bathing and drinking, if your into that kind of thing.
One of the projects Billion Acts of Green and the US Energy Department recommend to make an impact on your lifestyle for the green s to simply turn down the thermostat on your water heater.
When I did this to my home I found that this was just as easy as it said it would be. I went into the furnace room and discovered the water heater at around 120 degrees. It was an electric water heater so it had two panels needed for adjusting. I simply opened the panel, and turned the dial to 120 degrees, the recommended heat by the US energy department.
I waited around a half an hour and then, though it was freaky to stick a thermometer in what appears to be an industrial boiler, I turned down the heat until it read 120 degrees. Done. Simple as that.
In terms of savings, I lowered that heat 40 degrees, making the annual saving on our energy bill around $37.50. Overall not a bad days work for around $40 dollars in savings. I recommend this if one is not afraid of the big boiler in the basement.
Day 23: Vicara Lighting
It is my second to last day and one of the items I was most excited to use has arrived. Thanks to Vicara lighting all the way out in Portugal, I have received their Cartonado lamp made completely out of cardboard!
The green aspect of this lamp speaks for itself, just looking at the photo its pretty easy to understand. Vicara specializes in eco friendly design of lighting and I found them fascinating. Emailing this company was a long shot in terms of likelihood of response or helping me out but through much google translate, as well a learning how to convert to the euro, they decided to help and I am very grateful.
When I first opened the package I thought I would have to spend hours assembling this lamp, but turns out all the pieces are pre connected and al you have to do is unfold the lamp, and keep it stable through two pieces of tape-like cardboard. The wire connecting to the electrical socket was sadly a european one and not compatible with American AV wall outlets so I had to go to ACE and buy an adapter, but after that the lamp was rocking and beautiful.
The lamp gives an extremely interesting effect, as it divides the light through the cardboard slits into may divisions which in my opinion just looks awesome.
I combined the awesomeness of the Vicara lamp with the hyper efficiency of the A19 LSGC bulbs from a previous day. The product was a hyper efficient, hyper cool, and hyper green light for my nightstand and I love just as much as I now hate my old incandescent lamp.
Lighting is one of the most simple and practical ways for normal people to make a change for the green. In my experience it was incredibly easy and has I haven’t noticed it wince since Ive changed my lighting. So do consider changing yours as well.
Day 24: Lessons Learned
Well we are coming down to the end of it the end of the 25 days. And I am so excited. Not because this experience is coming to an end, but because I’ll know Ive accomplished my goal and I’ve really lived green for 25 days straight. And Im personally quite proud of myself. But if you are to take anything from my experience, take this.
Believe you can do this to:
I am the most normal guy there ever was, and green living was actually quite easily achieved and possible for me. Take this experience as evidence that you can do it as well.
The whole point of this, in my opinion, is not to make myself green, but to inspire others to do it as well. It really comes down to all of us taking action if we are to really make a difference. There is no point to this experience unless I inform people like you (who have cared enough to read to the end of this) about how it is possible to make a difference. Take anything, k=just one of these days and replicate it in your life. Take action, it all starts with Day 1.
Be proud, feel good, and tell people about it:
I have no problem bringing this experience up in conversation, I am proud I’ve done this and proud of everything I’ve learned and Im certain you can feel that pride as well. For me, doing these acts of green also felt really good inside. They just felt right, and I think you can have that feeling as well.
I have loved this experience from start to finish and its one of the highlights of the end of my year, and it was all from doing the simple things. Just try one simple, green act. And you’ll feel how amazing it feels to be green.
Attend my talk first period in the library, during the symposium and see the final day!