Fantastic variety vs not-so-environmentally-sound

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Keurig K-Cup Brewing System

I was at a friend’s house (Hi, Cindy!) and she has a Keurig K-Cup Brewing System.  I’d never seen one in action and fell in love. 

You can get all sorts of wonderful flavors and brands:  Toffee, Vanilla, Mocha, Hazelnut, apple cider, Newman’s Own, Tully’s, Emeril’s.  PLUS, you can get various teas, too – Twinings, Celestial Seasonings, even Swiss Miss hot chocolate!  Over 200 varieties!  That’s an astonishing number of choices.  This coffeemaker is THE coolest thing EVER!

Now, I want one for my birthday – although we’d also use it for the office.

Which makes complete sense, because we’ll often have a couple clients who want coffee in the middle of the afternoon, which means I make a small pot of coffee, ½ of which goes down the sink later. 

Personally, I don’t want coffee in the afternoons, I want tea, which means I have to run upstairs every time I want another cuppa and wait for the water to boil (or run water through the coffeemaker, hoping that no clients will want coffee that day).  Meaning I’m not at my desk and the phone will invariably ring and I pick it up and have to go back downstairs to find the answer to their question. 

Actually, shhh, I sometimes want tea in the mornings

But, I’ve since discovered that the K-Cups are not easily recyclable, so now I’m having second thoughts.  I can’t in good conscience use those cups unless I can figure out a way to make them more ‘green’ (no offense, Cindy).

The plastic cups, themselves, are a ‘5’, meaning that some recycling places will take them but I can’t put them in my recycling bin for the city pick-up service.  I’d have to drive for 20-30 minutes to the closest recycling center…that’s adding a recycling point but taking away a carbon-footprint point on my ‘green’ scale.  And the little cap isn’t recyclable so it goes in the trash.  On the plus side, taking the cups apart means you can compost the coffee or tea, so there’s another point in my favor, except that I don’t yet compost, so its actually still a negative point on the scale.

In doing a little research, I’ve discovered that an entire niche business has sprung up which provides new caps for the used cups (3 brands popped up during an internet search) and reusable filters instead of the K-cups – tiny versions of the ones you can get for your regular coffeemaker. 

The new caps are put on the used cups after you’ve thoroughly washed (taking up precious water-points) and dried, then you fill the cups with coffee and pop on a cap.

Supposedly, you can get up to 10 uses before you need to toss the cup and use a new one.

It’s not like Keurig is ignoring the problem.  They have a page about this on their website.  They are working to find a way to make the K-Cups more easily recyclable but that isn’t, umm, easy.  The problem lies in keeping the coffee fresh and dry and the cup strong enough to handle the process that the coffee machine puts it through. 

Keurig even has a link to a site that will tell you where the closest recycling center is that will take the ‘5’ cups, which is a thoughtful thing to do. 

Keurig’s next single cup coffeemaker, Vue, will have coffee pods that are less trouble, they say.  The Vue is a slightly different product (although they’d probably use a stronger word that ‘slightly’) and the coffee pods are not interchangeable with the K-Cup Brewing System pods.  You can make stronger, hotter beverages and even add frothe.  I like that its an easier name to type;  Vue  vs K-Cup Brewing System.

Keurig's soon-to-be-released 'Vue'

I tried to find info about the Nestle’ espresso maker Nespresso, but their website wasn’t as informative.  There are similar re-capping solutions for their coffee capsules, too.  Someone mentioned that they have a program for companies where they take back the used coffee pods and recycle what can be.  I couldn’t find that info on their website, though.

There are other single cup coffee makers and here is an article at Popular Mechanics which rates a few of them:  http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/reviews/single-serve-coffeemaker-showd 

One of them was scary – it uses a nitrous-oxide (N2O) cartridge! 

Mypressi Twist has a N2O cartridge in the handle

What am I going to do?  I love the versatility of the Keurig machine but, I dunno yet if I can justify it.

What do you think about this?  Help me decide 😉

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Artificial Turf – Hot or Not?

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Here is a post from my guest, Lois Miller, Landscape Designer extraordinaire. 

It IS beautiful...

In my line of work as a Landscape Designer I get this question quite a lot lately.

Yes, Artificial Turf has improved a lot and it is the solution for very specific applications but on the whole I would say that artificial turf should not be used to replace the average lawn. 

Here is why:

–  Artificial turf is costly (3 times the cost of natural grass)

–  It is installed in the same manner as Interlocking Pavingstone which is laid on 6-8″ of base rock and sand compacted in place making it paving rather than “turf”

–   And lastly it is hot.

Seriously hot! Photo from U of Arkansas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Here’s a link to an interesting article I found on the University of Arkansas website about using artificial turf for sports fields: http://turf.uark.edu/turfhelp/archives/021109.html ).

 These are the top 3 complaints from folks getting bids or installing these products. For me the problem is the fact that Artificial Turf is not an environmentally friendly product.  Carpeting the earth destroys the biomass and living organisms in the soil leaving not an ecosystem but an inert area. The picture below shows the Carbon and Nitrogen cycles, basically how the earth (soil) interacts with the Sun, air and living organisms to keep a balance in the atmosphere so that we can actually breathe.  Not to mention grow living things to feast on!

 (Basically, carpeting your yard renders it a wasteland…)

 (Artificial Turf does not break down organic matter like the microorganisms do in soil – yeah, this means what you think it does…bird poop, spit, food, and worse, sits on the turf – ewww… which can cause infection to those using it.)

 Planting areas i.e. natural lawn, ground covers or mulch also act as drainage fields around our homes catching and absorbing water before it runs off into the sewer and then down into the bay.  The dilution of the salinity of the bay over time changes the whole ecosystem of that area as well.  Artificial Turf does have very tiny holes that allow for percolation of water, however, as with any type of paving most of the water runs off the surface.

(New ordinances in many areas require that all water runoff be retained on the property, not allowed to drain to the street and the City sewer system, so you should consider that when installing artificial turf.  You’ll be required to make sure the water runoff goes into a drywell or landscaped area.)

Areas that I have used Artificial Turf that worked out quite well are poorly drained, dark and small spaces.  Most of these projects were for Townhomes or Condo areas where having a tiny lawn on a north facing site made a muddy pit incapable of growing normal turf. The clients in these cases had small children and needed a bit of play space for them. 

(Here is a YouTube video on how to install artificial turf http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJSMQmoQJHU )

Sport areas are normally also the first choice for Artificial Turf because it is even, does not wear down easily and can be fitted to the specifications of the sport and client.

Saving water is a needed and important aspect of our future but using Artificial Turf to replace your front lawn is not the solution. As time goes by and the product fades and becomes an icky color it will invariably be removed to be sent to the landfill with all the other un-recyclable products.

 Turn instead to a water-conserving garden that will enhance your home rather than detracting from it. Most of these landscapes act as an environment that is friendly to birds, butterflies and other wildlife while naturally percolating water down to the ground water.

From Lois' portfolio

 

...also by Lois

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(If you decide to install artificial turf after all, check each brand and installer out carefully.  Seams can rupture, the carpet can stretch, tufts unravel and shed, UV rays can cause the plastic to break down.  Some products even have a high lead content!  A quality product and installation will help your artificial lawn last longer.)

For more info on Lois Miller, visit her website at www.loismillergardendesign.com  She does marvelous designs for huge budgets and tiny ones. 😉

...and another one by Lois

The questions most on your mind…

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I know what with the holidays coming and all, the first thing on your brain are these kinds of questions: 

Air ducts exposed to the heat?!? Not very efficient...

Are my air ducts insulated? 

Is my attic? 

Should I replace my fridge?

nasty-looking fridge http://www.kpatrol.org

...but they're saving energy! http://www.diyfail.com

 

What’s the big deal about fluorescent bulbs?

Sucks up electricity!

What kinds of ovens are most efficient?  Should I buy electric again or go  with gas?

Kneeds repare or replaysing

I need a new washing machine…what types are most efficient?

How can I become more ‘green’?   Where can I find out about energy rebates? 

Who can help me?  Where can I turn?

 In an effort to give you a leg up in your quest for energy efficiency, here are some websites that can help provide answers:

Energy Star  http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index   

Energy Star with info for small businesses  http://www.energystar.gov/smallbiz 

U.S. Dept. of Energy Efficiency and Renewabl Energy http://www.energysavers.gov/   

Energy Savers Booklet you can dowload   http://www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/pdfs/energy_savers.pdf   

American Council for Energy Efficience with info, tips, lists of appliances and their efficiency data http://www.aceee.org/consumer  

Database of State Initiatives for Renewables & Efficiency has a comprehensive listing of incentives, rebates, tax breaks and utility programs  http://dsireusa.org/   

Build It Green:  What does it mean, how does it work?  Many cities are initiating green requirements for new homes, additions and remodel  http://www.builditgreen.org/ 

Would you like to take a more active role promoting ‘green’ in your community?  http://www.greendrinks.org/   

d'oh!

And…if you hire a professional to do upgrades or installation, remember you get what you pay for 😉

Thanks again to www.uglyhousephotos.com for their awesomeness in documenting ‘fail’.

Quality, Value and Common Sense

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My mom, my sister, Rick and I went to the Birth of Impressionism exhibit at The deYoung Museum in San Francisco a couple weeks ago.  The exhibit is on loan from the Musee’ D’Orsee.

I was thinking that I would be bored out of my skull.  I’m not high-brow enough to like ‘Birth of Impressionist’ art, right?  I mean, honestly, I really liked an photography/art installation of Maori clans and their tattoos.  Me and Impressionist art?  Not so much…

Well, surprise, surprise, surprise.  Take this picture.  Officially, its called Arrangement in Grey and Black.  Unofficially, its called Whistler’s Mother.  Normally, when you see a picture like this in a magazine or catalog, you think it’s a boring painting of a dull person by some old guy.

Whistler's Mother - Arrangement in Grey and Black - Portrait of the Painter's Mother

And yet…the work on this painting is exquisite.  Her dress, black as night, has subtle tones of different shades showing the fall of the skirt to the floor.  I always thought she looked stern, like she was eating lemons.  But she looks completely approachable, like you and she might have an enjoyable conversation (but she wouldn’t gossip, oh, no, not ever), the soft lines on her face indicate kindness and you can tell how her son felt about her, his work with the brush is true to her elderly form but with a loving hand.

 I’d forgotten how moving these classic works can be.  My mom brought up the fact that years ago our family had seen the original painting Blue Boy.  I think I might have been in 6th grade or so.  I remember being struck by the glorious color.  He looked like he was alive and could step right off the canvas.  That is the first time I can remember understanding what art was and how it can move you.

Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough

Not to say that we liked ALL the works in the Exhibition.  There was an oil painting, about 4’ x 4’, of white turkeys in a yard.  White.turkeys.in.a.yard.

Sixteen square feet of white turkeys in a yard.  That’s a lot of space for a painting of turkeys…in a yard.    

 Sometimes, a copy feels the same as the original, or ‘close enough for government work’ as the saying goes.  You love  Eames original chairs?  Well, there are similar chairs you can get instead for much less.  You love crystal?  How about cut glass instead?  Faux fur vs the actual pelt, bathroom tile ‘seconds’ might have flaws you won’t even notice (or care about).  I love silver (I’m a real magpie when it comes to shiny objects) but I also love aluminum and pewter, so I’m not stuck with a taste only for the expensive stuff that I can’t always (read rarely) afford.

 Other times the copy cannot do justice to the original and you get what you pay for.  Of course, most of us don’t have a wallet large enough to buy this kind of art, but sometimes the price is worth it.  Ever had a towel start fraying at the edges with its first wash?  Ever broke out in a rash from using a soap you got at a discount store?  Got green on your finger after buying a ‘silver’ ring?

You can make your dollars count by determining where you can scrimp and where you shouldn’t.  Quality, value and common sense.  Where do you need that WOW factor?  I used WOW products in areas that were important – such as the large window over the claw-foot tub.  We asked John Joy to put in a stained glass window.  http://www.johnjoystudio.com/artist.htm   

Window by John Joy

Wine label tiles in the butler pantry.  http://www.tilebydesign.net  

Wine label tiles

 Crystal chandelier in the dining room (but I’ve already shown you that picture…)

The picture following, taken before the tile was installed, shows you what a difference the tilework makes in the space.

without the tile

Does your bathroom floor HAVE to have whiter-than-white imported marble from Barcelona (believe me, the whitest is the most expensive).  How about putting that money to work where it counts, like on-demand hot water tank or solar panels on the roof or pavers in the driveway instead of concrete or Hardi-Plank siding instead of wood (it’s a cement product, very durable) or even uber-green stuff like a rain water reclamation system, landscaping your roof or buying a barn in Idaho and shipping it out here and having it re-planed into flooring – which isn’t the greenest thing, actually, because of the gas and effort it takes to get the barn pieces to wherever you are.

 OK, now I’m swirling in a cloud of indecision…is it green, is it not-green?  I need an Excel spreadsheet to calculate it all.

 Example:  Cement can be recycled, yet it is created by digging up the earth.  A product like Silestone or Caesarstone is a green product because it is created from other recycled products, YET it cannot be recycled itself because those recycled products are glued together with a product that can’t be recycled.  Granite is green but, again, you’ve dug up the earth to get it.  Its starting to feel like a no-win situation…

 But, then along comes a paper countertop – yes, paper –  and which can be made of 100% post-consumer recycled paper.  That’s pretty cool.  But, the product isn’t made ONLY of paper, there are resins involved – nice, green resins, they say, with Zero VOC and stuff like that there.  I don’t have samples in my hands yet, but I’ve ordered some.  They say its hard, extremely durable and can be sculpted like hard wood.  Hmmm, sounds good to me.  Now, all I need is a price comparison.  But, hey, that’s what you’ll do when you do your Quality/Value/Common sense test, won’t you!  😉

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