Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Pamphlet Distribution Report for March

So, after cruising around Gunnison for an hour and checking on the stashes of ORE pamphlets, I have come to the conclusion that people need to seriously pick more of them up.  Anyway, below is a summary of the current status of the pamphlets around town and on campus as of March 27th, for those of you who may be interested in finding a few of 'em.  Beside each number of pamphlets for each business, I have put the number of pamphlets that I have added to each cache, assuming they needed a restocking and I had enough of a given booklet on hand.  Also, my apologies for the extreme length of this post.  No compromise on the full list of booklets!

On Western’s Campus
Kelley Hall:
Main Recycle Bins:
-           3x EnergySmart +1 = 4x

-           9x ORE Information

-           2x Local Farms First +1 = 3x

-           10x EnergyWise

-           6x Pocket Guide to Energy Efficiency

-           8x Green Business Directory
Student Room:
-           8x Green Business Directory

-           1x Local Farms First +1 = 2x

-           5x EnergyWise

-           4x EnergySmart

-           4x ORE Information

-           4x Pocket Guide to Energy Efficiency
Downstairs Table #2:
-           2x Green Business Directory

-           0x Local Farms First

-           5x EnergySmart

-           4x ORE Information

-           5x EnergyWise

-           4x Pocket Guide to Energy Efficiency
Upstairs Table #1:
-           2x Green Business Directory
Upstairs Table #2:
-           0x Green Business Directory

-           4x ORE Information
Upstairs Table #3:
-           2x Green Business Directory
Taylor Hall Downstairs:
Recycle Bins #1:
-           2x ORE Information +3 = 5x

-           3x Green Business Directory +2 = 5x
Recycle Bins #2:
-           5x ORE Information

-           1x Green Business Directory +4 = 5x
Leslie J. Savage Library:
Main Table:
-           1x Green Business Directory +3 = 4x

-           9x ORE Information

-           3x Pocket Guide to Energy Efficiency

-           9x Local Farms First

-           10x EnergySmart

-           10x EnergyWise
College Center:
Main Booklet Table:
-           20x ORE Information (took 38 back with me)

-           8x Green Business Directory

-           17x EnergySmart (were originally 69, took 52 back)

-           10x EnergyWise

-           6x Local Farms First

-           13x Pocket Guide to Energy Efficiency
-           7x Green Business Directory

-           9x Pocket Guide to Energy Efficiency

-           5x ORE Information

-           5x Local Farms First

-           5x EnergySmart

-           5x EnergyWise
Around Gunnison
Natural Foods Market:
-           4x Green Business Directory +1 = 5x

-           5x EnergySmart

-           5x EnergyWise

-           1x ORE Information +5 = 6x

-           5x Pocket Guide to Energy Efficiency
-           4x Green Business Directory +1 = 5x

-           4x ORE Information +1 = 5x

-           3x Local Farms First +3 = 6x
The Bean:
-           9x Green Business Directory

-           9x ORE Information

-           7x Pocket Guide to Energy Efficiency

-           18x EnergyWise

-           5x EnergySmart

-           4x Local Farms First +6 = 10x
Brick Cellar:
-           9x Green Business Directory

-           10x Local Farms First (undetermined)

-           10x EnergyWise (undetermined)

-           10x EnergySmart (undetermined)

-           10x ORE Information (undetermined) +9x

-           3x Pocket Guide to Energy Efficiency
Mario’s Pizza:
-           9x ORE Information

-           6x Pocket Guide to Energy Efficiency

-           7x Local Farms First

-           9x EnergySmart

-           9x EnergyWise

-           7x Green Business Directory
Totals Delivered:
-           Green Business Directory: 140x

-           ORE Information: 134x

-           EnergySmart: 83x

-           EnergyWise: 88x

-           Pocket Guide to Energy Efficiency: 90x

-           Local Farms First: 106x
Total Booklets Delivered to Locations: 641
Overall, the Local Farms First booklets seem to do the best, followed by the Green Business Directory.  The ORE Information and Pocket Guide to Energy Efficiency pamphlets do alright, not great though.  I am tempted to stop handing out the EnergySmart and EnergyWise pamphlets, as almost none of them have been taken over the past few months.  Perhaps this is just due to where I've put them.  Before the end of the semester, I am going to try to add a few more locations to the list, including Global Linings and the gardening place on Tomichi across from Sonic (the name eludes me at the moment).  If anyone else has a good idea or two, please post a comment and let me know.  My hope is that these handy little pamphlets will not only help to get the word out about ORE, but will also help out the businesses that I've placed 'em at.  Until next time.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Emissions Permits and Renewable Energy Credits

Due in large part to my initial confusion about the matter, I figure I will take a moment to attempt to better explain the notions of so-called "tradable emissions permits" and "renewable energy credits," both of which are intended to cap and offset emissions of pollutants, in this short post.  First of all, tradable emission permits are allocated to designated "polluters," such as factories, based on a total amount of allowable emissions of a given "pollutant" from a group of polluters.  Say, for instance, that two firms are allowed to emit a combined maximum of 20 "units" of carbon monoxide.  The EPA will then distribute 20 permits between these "firms," to use the preferred nomenclature; each permit allows the emission of 1 unit of CO from the firm.  So, hypothetically, each firm will get 10 permits, allowing them to each emit 10 units of CO for a combined total of 20 units of CO.  However, just giving each firm 10 permits negates any merit of the "tradable" part of the equation.  So, these permits are allowed to be sold between the firms or even auctioned off by either the firms or, in some cases, by the EPA initially.  What this means is that, according to ecnomic theory and the strange-but-true notion that firms are motivated by money above all else, these permits will be distributed amongst the "polluters" in such a way as to minimize their costs, or, more accurately, to equalize each of their costs to "abate" CO, in this case.  How this works is that each of these polluters has a different cost to reduce their emissions.  If one of them finds it cheaper to buy permits rather than reduce emissions and the other is already reducing more emissions than they have permits for, the first firm will buy surplus permits, at a reasonable price, from the second firm.  As long as 20 units of CO are still being abated (even if one firm carries the responsibility for all of the CO abatement and the other firm just buys permits in order to be legally able to emit 20 units of CO), all regulations are being followed and the EPA is happy.  The tradable permit system is very flexible, and has a lot of potential for helping to clean up pollution.  It also has potential to cause a lot of problems, but that's another story (you can read all about it on Wikipedia).  However, one of the most interesting facets of tradable permits is that they are often auctioned off publicly.  In other words, me and my purely-hypothetical ultra-left-wing neighbor can, at least in theory, join forces to buy up 10 of the things so that 10 units of pollution cannot be emitted by firms.  Even the government can buy up permits if the EPA feels that it allocated too many in the first place.  What this means is that the tradable permits system gives a bit of a voice to environmental groups and other caring citizens.  The reason that I took so long to explain all of this is that it relates to some extent to the practice of buying "renewable energy credits" that has become increasingly prevalent among businesses, local governments, and private citizens.  Rather than paying for the legality to pollute, these people can purchase so-abbreviated "RECs" to "offset" their energy use with renewable energy.  Every REC that is purchased supposedly contributes real electricity to the municipal power grid, which can potentially replace the same amount of coal-generated electricity.  The idea behind these credits is similar to that of the tradable emission permit system, as those who purchase renewable energy credits are basically paying to reduce some pollution caused by the electricity generation that powers their television sets or what-have-you.  In theory, this allows them, at least "ethically" (legality is not a concern in this case as it is in the tradable permit system), to continue watching television, so to speak, just as purchasing emissions permits allows the aforementioned firms to continue emitting pollutants to a certain extent.  So, when people purchase these renewable energy credits, they are indeed offsetting their energy use, only not by directly reducing it, but by encouraging the growth of renewable energy that may eventually become a larger part of their electric power generation.  On that note, I hope that this rather long-winded post can help someone out, or is at least interesting to someone who previously didn't know about these things.

About Local Farms First

In the spirit of informing you all about ORE's various programs, and since Spring is almost here, I figured that now would be as good a time as ever to deliver a short blurb on Local Farms First, an ORE program that, true to its name, attempts to spotlight Western Colorado's small farms and grow community support for their heroic efforts.  Local Farms First is run by over 50 local farms, and all of the profits from the program go directly to these farmers to help bolster their livelyhoods.  Though this all sounds fairly familiar, Local Farms First has at least one unconventional twist; namely, buyers can order all manner of veggies, dairy, eggs, and other produce online.  Much as I tend to frown upon the modern age's obsession with convenience and electronic gizmos, I must consent that at least in this case they are being used for a worthy cause.  Customers can then have the food delivered to their homes.  Local Farms First endeavors to fill the gaps in local farmers markets' coverage, offering their food to people across the Western Slope.  Another great thing about these farms is that they grow all of their food without commercial chemicals or other vestiges of commercial food production operations, and all of their food is, as such, certified as "USDA Organic."  So, if you're looking to buy even a little local food, supporting these ladies and gentlemen and their worthy efforts isn't a bad idea by any stretch of the imagination.  Thanks to Local Farms First, not only do people have a great way to buy local food, but the farmers also have a unique way to bring their great food to local markets, perhaps feeding people that they ordinarily would not be able to reach.

Oh, and I should probably mention, despite my already-publicized aversion to "modern communication" (read: the internet, especially Facebook) that there is currently a promotion going on that could win Local Farms First a $5,000 grant.  The contest is based on Facebook, and whichever Colorado project gets the most votes will win the grant.  So, some of you "social media" types may want to check this out.  You can visit or visit this link.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

ORE's EnergySmart Programs

Since most people seem to be resisting taking any of the EnergySmart and EnergyWise booklets that I have so copiously dispersed around town, I figure that it is probably because these people don't know what these programs actually are.  In light of this, I figure that I'll take the liberty of telling all of you dear readers of their merits.
The EnergySmart program involves signing up for and getting an assessment of your home through ORE, during which one of their contractors will come perform a safety and energy inspection of your house.  This assessment will help determine any quick, immediate improvements that you can make to reduce your house's energy use, as well as various long-term considerations for bolstering the energy integrity of your house.  When you actually get around to doing these retrofits, EnergySmart will help you to fund them via rebates and/or loans.
EnergySmart Business, which used to be called EnergyWise, is essentially the same services, just reworked for businesses.  The business incentives here come in the form of public recognition, cost savings, and the overall viability of one's business.  The EnergySmart Business program emphasizes conserving electricity, water, and waste (in the form of recycling), as well as on responsible sourcing and investments and on community outreach.  Ideally, the combination of all of these things will come together to bolster the sustainability of local businesses.  Though I'm probably sounding like a broken record, the Green Business Directory lists a whole slew of area businesses that are members of this program, and thus is a good place to see how these businesses are involved in the EnergySmart Business program.
In fact, the network of all three of these programs - EnergySmart, EnergySmart Business, and the Green Business Directory - is a great start for bolstering our community's energy literacy; our familiarity with our own energy use; and local support for area businesses, homeowners, and their efforts towards sustainability.  So, without further ado - and this is by no means intended as some sort of sales pitch - I urge you faithful readers to at least read the booklets for EnergySmart and EnergyWise, if not actually sign up for an assessment of your house (even renters can enjoy some of the benefits of these services).  Even better yet, support and encourage some of the businesses who are involved with EnergyWise so that they know that their efforts have not gone unappreciated. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

About "Point Source" and "Nonpoint Source" Pollution

I heard someone mention this the other day, and, having also learned about these two kinds of pollution in my Environmental Economics class, I figured that it would be nice to expound upon them for a little while.  Point source and nonpoint source both refer to different categorizations of what has been termed "pollution" - in this case, we're just discussing pollution resulting from modern industrialism.  While pollution can be worldwide, regional, or very localized in its scope, it all has to originate from various sources.  This is where the point source and nonpoint source distinctions become important - in describing the source of said pollution.  So, without further ado, "point source" refers to a distinct, identifiable source of pollution, and "nonpoint source" designates a pollution source that is not readily identifiable and often pollutes on a large scale, making their pollution difficult to regulate or mitigate.  For a few examples, let's consider various aspects of the "typical" lifestyle in the United States.  Cars and trucks, for instance are mobile sources of air pollution on a very large scale.  Though their emissions are often regulated, it is impossible to reliably enforce certain emissions standards 100% of the time; the combination of these factors suggests that vehicles are, on the whole, a nonpoint source of pollution.  The factories that manufactures these vehicles, however, can sometimes be considered point source polluters.  In the case of factories who dump their waste onto nearby land, they can be considered point sources of pollution because their pollution can be traced directly back to them and can probably also be regulated.  In the case of people's houses, things get a bit more complicated.  Gas furnaces, for instances, can be collectively considered a nonpoint source of pollution, even though they are somewhat regulated.  However, people who dump toxic chemicals on their lawns are creating point sources of pollution, as these will proceed to run off into the gutter and end up in local water.  On the subject of electricity, the power plants that are responsible for the energy used by home appliances can be both point and nonpoint pollution sources.  Though the carbon they release as a byproduct of burning coal cannot be accurately traced back to individual plants, certain plants may well be point sources of pollution, depending on whether or not they dump waste into the water supply or damage the land around them (which, hopefully, they do neither).
Based on all of these examples, I hope that the distinctions between these two different types of pollution are more clear.  Both kinds of polluters are responsible for a whole slew of pollution, though point sources seem to lean more towards localized environmental effects, such as those of waste dumping, and nonpoint sources bear more responsibility for regional and global pollution, as in the case of carbon emissions. 
Hopefully, this small post has helped someone out there become more aware of the various differences, distinctions, and classifications of what has been so broadly called "pollution," and can use this information to some benefit in their own lives and experiences.

Becomming "Energy Literate"

After a three-week long absence from this little blog, I have returned with - fittingly enough - an editorial of sorts that was spurred by a comment made in class a few weeks ago by Dr. Coop.  Namely, most people in the United States, and likely much of the rest of so-called "energy dependent" countries, do not have any context for understanding what exactly their energy use actually means.  In other words, most people do not know what the significance of all of the "numbers" is - what do kilowatt-hours, megawatts, gigawatts, terawatts, and even plain old watts actually designate?  How about BTUs?  The problem is that without some sort of context as to what exactly these units compare to, they are essentially meaningless.  So, time for a little explanation.  One watt is equal to one joule of energy expended per second.  It takes about five, give or take, of these to power a typical clock radio, about 60 for a light bulb, 1200 for a dishwasher, and the equivalent of 26,856,000 watts to power a large jet.  In other words, these things are continuously using any given wattage - not over a period of time, but at any given time.  As one can see, the power (as opposed to energy, since wattage is energy over time) required by these machines increases astronomically with their complexity.  As we begin to deal with more sizable quantities of Watts (or any units of power or energy, for that matter), we can add the prefixes kilo-, mega-, giga-, and the like to denote various exponential values of 10.  Kilowatt-hours, for example, are units of energy that designate how many kilowatts (or 1000 Watts) are used for an hour.  In other words, if your electric cooperative charges 12 cents per KwH for power, it means they are basically charging you 48 cents to run a 4000W dryer for an hour.
How about those British Thermal Units, or BTUs, for short?  One BTU is the energy required to raise the temperature of one gallon of water by one degree Fahrenheit and is equal to 1055 Joules.  Since the United States uses about 100 quadrillion BTUs of energy per year (or 100 x 10^15 BTUs per year), we can, with a little math, determine that each person in the U.S. of A. is, on average, responsible for 345,000,000,000 Joules per year.  In watts, this is about 10,940 used on average by everyone in the U.S. all of the time.
Now that we have those formalities out of the way, I can get to the proposed rant.  Although these numbers are fairly involved with the "big picture," it is all of the little pictures of individuals', companies' and families' energy use that add up to the big numbers.  As such, it is incredibly important that people who do rely on the ubiquitous washing machine, microwave, and toaster oven be, at the very least, aware of what their energy use actually adds up to.  For most people, their understanding of energy use comes in the form of the monthly utility bills.  This is not all bad, as having to actually pay for electricity has a way of encouraging people not to waste it, and they can weigh their energy use by how big of a dent it puts in their wallet.  However, this notion of energy would be further bolstered by knowledge of the math piece of the equation and by putting one's energy use in context with other users of energy (like that jet I mentioned).  In this way, energy is no longer as abstract, but becomes much more tangible and, by extension, important, in people's understandings of how they maintain their lifestyles.  Since many people already are trying to reduce their home energy use, it seems appropriate for them to also gain a better understanding of energy in general.  My hope is that, as people continue to do this, they will work towards learning more about the reality of the United States' and the rest of the world's use of electricity and other sources of energy.  In this way, when people change their incandescent light bulbs out for fluorescent ones, or insulate their houses, or any number of other things, these actions are no longer arbitrary attempts at "being green" or the like, but based on the knowledge, understanding, and, most importantly, care that they have cultivated by learning more about energy.  And, of course, there's still quite a lot to learn, so let's keep at it!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Green Building in the Gunnison Valley

There is still progress being made on the house in Crested Butte South being build by Sleightholm Workshop despite the cold.  The past few months they have been roughing in the house getting it ready for insulation. Since my last post they have gotten the windows in and have begun to prep the outside of the house for the stucco finish.  They have put a vapor barrier on the roof and other key places to keep moisture from coming into contact with the wood structure which could lead to rotting and decreasing the structural integrity.  I myself have been working on air sealing the house to create a tight building envelop.  A tight building envelope is important in cold climate like the Gunnison valley because it decreases the air exchanged from the outside to the inside of the house, creating more cold air to heat.  I have been doing air sealing by putting caulk above and below the wall framing where it meets the floor and top plate (what the roof framing sits on).  This prevents air leaks in the house, keeping the all ready heated warm air in the house creating less air to heat.  Eventually we can measure the amount of air that is being transfered from outside to inside by doing a blower door test.  We will be doing a blower door test in the coming weeks after the house is insulated.