Thursday, February 28, 2008

Old face of energy efficiency

Pretty much everywhere in the world, people used to use energy for double or triple purposes. I'm not talking about complex energy efficiency technology. It's all about old lifestyle filled with rich knowledge base on how to live more efficiently with less resources.

Back in old days, it was common to use stove, and put a kettle or a pot on it. Stove heated the room, cooked food, and then boiling water in a kettle added some moisture to the room. A stove was executing three missions at one time.

Now, we might heat the rooms with central heating system, cook on the oven, and then use humidifier.

It should not be difficult to rewind our way of thinking a bit, and find one or two....or more places where we can "integrate" energy use. It was integrated once! It just got diversified over the course of modernization. We don't have to invent anything new. Just reflecting back a little bit and we can reduce our carbon footprint.

Winter is usually cold and dry in many regions. In Japan, people eat pot(nabe) a lot, especially when people get togheter for home party. Portable oven (on which you place a pot) is often used. People get together around the table on which the pot is simmering. They share meal, beer and laughter. And the pot, while providing nicely warm food, is also warming the room and adding some moisture.

You might want to switch to nabe from sushi during winter, if you like Japanese food!

photo by barron

Monday, February 25, 2008

Reducing plastic bottles.

Slowly but steadily, "Paper or plastic?" at the grocery stores is being replaced by "BYOB. (bring your own bag).

Plastic bag is being worked on, so now it's turn for plastic bottles to be looked at.

Rather than trying to collect/recycle used bottles, I have an easy solution to reduce the number of End-of-Life plastic bottles that is generated on a daily basis: Replace soda/water in a plastic bottle with a tea in a cup.

I won't go over the health benefits of drinking tea, because you can browse a lot of information on the Internet. As to me, I grew up drinking tea; I am just used to it. I like taking warm fluid in my body. Once you are used to it, it is relaxing and soothing. Of course, you could eliminate the intake of excess sugar!

So, I drink tea more often than soda.....but it's primarily because I prefer tea to soda. But tea seems to be much greener than bottled bevarages. Imagine how much we have to invest to buy bottles of water or sodas and then keep them cool. Liquid is pretty heavy and not compactable. It takes space/energy/labor to ship, transport, sell and buy. Then, it takes a lot of room in your fridge to cool, especially if you have multiple kids! Last but not least, at the end of the day, we have to do something with piles and piles of plactic bottles.

Tea can eliminate all of them! All you need is tap water, a kettle, a cup and bags of tea. Indeed, tea revives tap water. When it's purified and boiled, it's not bad at all (at least my tap water is good for tea).

photo by: Al- Fassam

Saturday, February 23, 2008


We are not cooking here, we are doing laundry.

Charcoal is probably the ultimate green alternative to the detergent.

1) Get charcoal. (~3"x2"~)
2) Wash the surface of charcoal. (you don't have to use soap; just scrub the surface off)
3) Put the charcoal in a bag (such as an old sock) along with something that makes the bag afloat in the washing machine (foams would work). Close it with rubber band.
4) Put in the washing machine.

Easy as 1-2-3.

Salt (1-2 tbs) works as bleach, deodorant.
Vinegar (wood vinegar, not balsamic vinegar please) works as softner/finisher (use when rinsing).

photo by hosiubo

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Walkable streets are fun!

Walkable strees are fun. You don't have to repeat never ending drive-park-shop-drive-park-shop.... cycle. You are free to take time and stroll around, check this shop, buy a little snack from that place, as you feel like to.

photo by nodoca

If a town as a whole is designed walkable, you can have a glass of beer or a keg in a pub, and then walk home without worrying about DUI at all! Obviously, if the town is population dense enough, you will have a decent public transportation system that won't discriminate you even if you enjoyed a little bit of booze.

Narrower, walkable streets have safety advantage too. I learnt in my environmental planning class that the widths of the street affect how fast people drive. If the streets are wider, people tend to drive faster which increases the risk of accident.

Making the streets narrower and walkable (or making a town a bit smaller) would have many advantages; save land use, increase traffic safety, reduce your carbon footprint a lot ---- and it's fun!

This photo is Netherland that is as population dense as Japan. When population density is high and the land is scarce/expensive, people develop small but highly pedestrian-friendly, toy-box like neighbourhood that is fun to explore. Netherland has nice little lovely streets, beautifully decorated, narrow/tall apartments standing next to each other with no space in-between (which buidling was built first???) and a lot of pubs in walking distance!

photo by atsjebosma

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Recycling: where to bring your source-separated items?

Here in California, waste management is moving toward single-stream collection. You put all the recyclables in a signle bin, then they are collected and transported to transfer stations or material recovery facilities, where they are separated.

It could be a lot more work to separate already mixed recyclables. Plus, the recyclables could get contaminated on the way. There are the advantages to separate the materials as early as possible. But I know we only have one single recycling bin at home. Where to bring source separated items then?

Grocery stores could be the place.

Grocery stores in Japan has source separated collection box for plastic trays, PET bottles, milk cartons, alminum cans etc.

People usually clean those recycables before bringing in.

Recycling industry is sort of difficult to track (it could be happening in the third country), so I am looking for the information regarding the relationship between "purity" of the feedstock and the quality of secondary materials to demonstrate the benefit of early source separation.

photo source

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Recycling: Source separation helps!

There is no single "recycling".

The success of recycling really depends on what you put in the recycling stream - the quality of feedstock.

If the feedstock is contaminated or heterogeneous (as opposed to homogeneous), chances are low that what you recycle will produce the secondary product with marketable quality.

Take paper. There are different kinds/quality of paper and different kinds of inks on them. Glue or food waste might be sticking. If it's plastic, there are even more variety of plastic product out there with different types of color/prints in/on them. There are dirty ones, clean ones, new ones or worn ones, depending on what they are used for.

If everything gets commingled, it is more likely that the feedstock is contaminated and heterogeneous. It won't help recycling at all.

Just one PET beverage bottle has at least three different plastic products: bottle, cap, and the film.

The effort is going on in Japan to separate all three of them from PET bottle. The film has the perforations so as it is easy to tear off from the body. Cap also has some trick to make it easier to source separate.

Source separation matters!


"Nuno-zori" - Cloth sandal

This is neat.

You can use your old clothes or towels or any textile basically - to make those lovely sandals!

And it is easy to make; even a 3rd or 4th grader can make it.

Ideal to wear in a house. (Keep your house clean and keep your toes comfy!)I'm also thinking these would be good for a trip. (use in a hotel room, etc..)

Washable, obviously.

I need to post how to make.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Laundry, laundry, how do you dry?

Do you hang clothes after you wash your laundry?

Probably no.

I know there are so many reasons why people opt for using dryer instead of hanging clothes. But think about it; clothes dryer could be as energy consuming as a fridge. It comsumes about 1040kw of electricity annually which is worth 2.3 of trees. If 100,000,000 household use dryer, it is 230,000,000 worth of trees!

.....enough to justify stop using dryer? Probably no.
Well actually, the reason why I hang my clothes is because I am pretty embarrassed when I see the clothes coming back from the dryer! They are shrunk and damaged. I mean, it's not that bad....still wearable, of course. But especially if they are the knit, silk, linen, or other delicate textile with delicate design, I want to minimize the damage. Oh, and I shouldn't forget underwears. They need good care, really.

So, not just for environmental reasons, I hang clothes to keep their conditions better. And so do most Japanese women. And they don't just use hanging ropes and pinches. There are variety of washing/drying gudgets to make your lanudry life better!

Put your delicate clothes in a lanudry mesh bag. It protects the cloths from bumping each other in a washer. Remember, bottuns, zippers and other attachments can be harmful to other clothes!

Then, hang nicely with laundry hungers. (image

If you don't have time, how about just hanging your favorite clothes? If you cannot use your backyard, garage is a nice alternative. I am trying to convert part of my garage to hang clothes. It is green, and really good for your clothes!

Monday, February 11, 2008

who is eco-samurai?

I came to US a couple of years ago. As an environmental professional, I am intrigued by the fact that different countries/regions have their own version of being green.

Japan has its unique tactic to be green: Live small.

I wish to introduce Japan's tips to live small, lean and green. And I'd like to hear other version of being green.