Several years ago I read about the problems restaurants faced with the disposal of used vegetable oil from cooking. If you have ever parked behind a fast food eatery you may have noticed a dumpster area for trash disposal as well as a container for storing used vegetable oil. The area is often tucked away behind the building to prevent the public from seeing and smelling the waste. Restaurants pay companies to haul away the solid and liquid waste.
I also learned many years ago that the diesel engine was invented by Adolf Diesel to run on peanut oil to help farmers with an affordable fuel source. Most diesel fuel now is petroleum based. Individuals can still run their diesel vehicles on vegetable oil by using a Grease Car type system or by converting the vegetable oil to biodiesel which requires a process and equipment using chemicals. I have always wanted to convert my VW diesel to veggie oil. Imagine free fuel that is also good for the environment and your exhaust smells like french fries.
Recently I have been thinking about generating electricity with used vegetable oil from restaurants using a diesel generator. I was surprised to see that a company has developed such a product for restaurants to generate electricity and hot water from used oil. The unit even filters the waste oil prior to using it to generate electricity and hot water. The product is called the Vegawatt Power System. For more information visit web site.
We do not use used vegetable oil at our inn to power the structures or heat water but we do utilize many eco-friendly methods.
The other day I drove to the North Springs Marta Station to meet my middle son who was catching the train from the Atlanta airport. We never go directly to the Atlanta airport because the traffic is always heavy and airport parking is expensive.
On the way to the Marta Station I had to navigate Georgia 400 which is known for heavy traffic on a multi lane highway. Driving in my Volvo 240 with the “be green” bumper sticker on the back window I had both hands firmly on the steering wheel. On 400 it starts as a 4 lane highway and lanes are added the closer you get to the Atlanta metro area.
I am known as a mindful driver who never exceeds the speed limit. On this trip I held a steady speed of 60-65 mph. I felt like my car was not even moving because everyone was zipping by me at 75 mph. Oh, the cheap gas makes Georgians feel that they can drive as fast as they want. Conservation is never thought about unless the price of gas rises above 4 dollars a gallon. Does higher gas prices equals conservation?
On ABC News the other night Charlie Gibson had a special called “Addicted to Oil”. He raised an interesting point that gasoline prices do not factor in the hidden costs of production. Such costs include the military (for fighting the gas wars in Iraqi and other places to protect our interests- cheap oil) and global warming.
Maybe such costs will be added in the future to reflect the true cost of a gallon of gasoline. If so, can you imagine how much we would be paying? Maybe 4 to 6 dollars a gallon. I bet those highway 400 drivers would slow down and show that higher gas prices equals conservation.
On ABC World News they featured a story about the use of paper and plastic shopping bags in grocery stores. The public has been slow to adopt the usage of reusable shopping bags. You have seen them. They are made of cloth or heavy plastic. Could a paper and plastic bag tax encourage use of reusable shopping bags?
I have mentioned on previous blog posts that I am frustrated that when I go shopping with my wife she seems to be the only one using reusable bags. The other mindless shoppers are using the free throw away plastic or paper bags.
On another news channel they mentioned that some major cities are thinking about imposing a tax on each throw away plastic or paper bag used. San Francisco has already outlawed plastic bags. Other cities like Washington, DC are looking at a 20 cent per bag tax. The poor are crying foul saying they cannot afford the tax. At Trader Joe’s last week we bought a reusable bag for about a dollar. Reusable bags are affordable so the poor need to think of another reason.
In Ireland the ABC News story went on to say that they have imposed a 33 cent a bag tax on all bags. Nine out of ten consumers in Ireland now bring reusable bags when they go shopping. Hitting the pocketbook changes consumer behavior in Ireland. Would such a paper and plastic bag tax work in the USA. I would be willing to give it a try.
I hope Americans think about the consequences of their buying habits but I know that is wishful thinking on my part.
Bring on the bag tax and lets get rid of those awful plastic and paper bags that create pollution in their manufacturing (plastic) not to mention the number of trees that must be cut down for us to use a throw away paper bag.
Go out and purchase some reusable bags next time you shop and keep them in your car so that they can be used for your next grocery shopping trip.
Next time the check out person says paper or plastic say neither, I brought my own reusable bags.
Early this week my wife and I loaded up our VW Camper Van with bagged garbage to take it to the Lumpkin County landfill/transfer station. Since our middle son moved to Gainesville we have not been able to borrow his pickup truck for trash hauling so the van had to do. We try to create less garbage for the Earth and to reduce trips to the dump.
We placed tarps inside the van to catch any spills from leaky trash bags, loaded the van and went on our way to the dump. My wife commented that there we no odors caused by the garbage. We check our guest trash for food at check outs and also take all of our unused food and use it for composting. That explained the lack of odor.
We were also surprised that we had not made the dump trip in over 3 months and marvelled at the small amount of trash we accumulated in the last 3 months. The trash were were taking to the dump were items we could not recycle or compost. Less garbage was not only possible but easy.
When my wife goes grocery shopping she tries to purchase items in recyclable packaging. By recycling the packaging versus disposing we keep it out of the landfill which helps the environment by creating less garbage.
Here in the county we can recycle some plastics (mainly the water bottles guests leave us), cans and paper. We also use shredded paper/junk mail in our composter. Glass has to be taken to another county for recycling. Many wine bottles are bottle trees in the yard. See bottle trees for more information.
Being mindful about what you purchase and the packaging it comes in is very green. So is composting food to keep it out of the landfill. Start today and help the environment. Please do your part by creating less garbage and everyone will benefit.
To learn more about how we help the environment visit our inn page being green.
Happy Earth Day everyone! Start using reusable shopping bags today.
I wish that Earth Day was not just a day but something that lasts all year. Imagine if everyone was mindful about recycling, saving electricity and conserving water and gasoline. The world would be a better place for our children and grandchildren in the future.
One thing that everyone could do that requires very little effort and expense is to start using reusable shopping bags when they shop. Every store now sells them but I seldom see anyone using them. America seems to be addicted to those little plastic bags that choke the landfills, pollute the roadways and require fossil fuels/oil in the manufacturing process.
If you do not currently use reusable bags I challenge you to start. Just purchase a few and place them in your car. When you arrive at the grocery store take them inside with you. When you are finished shopping and head to the check out have them ready for the bagger. When asked “paper or plastic” say “neither, I brought my own”.
When I go grocery shopping with my wife it seems that she is the only one using reusable bags. It’s really sad in my opinion. One day those little plastic disposal bags may be illegal. I certainly hope so.
Do you part to help the Earth. Start using reusable shopping bags today.
If you would like to stay in an Earth Friendly Inn visit our web site.
With the droughts of past years a distant memory and the frequent recent rains we have had many are not probably thinking about water conservation. Last year rain barrels were popular and many found they were hard to find due to market demand by people wanting to save rainwater for garden irrigation.
We added a metal roof onto the inn to catch our rainwater but have not added the required gutters and rainwater chains. Rain barrels are also part of the project.
In the United Kingdom rainwater barrels are called water butts. They come in various shapes and sizes like the rain barrels you can purchase in the USA.
One company has made a rain barrel or water butt in the shape of a persons bottom complete with butt crack and a tattoo above the thong line. They even come in several skin tone colors.
Unfortunately they cannot be purchased in the US. Can you imagine some neighborhoods trying to deny the use of these water butts in the deed restrictions?
What’s wrong with looking at a good butt? And a butt that saves precious water?
At Cedar House Inn we use recycled paper tissue and paper products exclusively. Such products can be purchased at most grocery stores. We happen to like the Publix Greenwise and Kroger Simple Truth paper products. Sometimes we purchase Seventh Generation. They are not only recycled paper content but also becoming more affordable.
Kleenex which is made by the giant company Kimberly Clarke cuts down ancient old growth forests to make tissue for wiping noses and other things. This is not only environmentally destructive to the trees, wildlife and the Earth. It is also irresponsible.
You can find recycled paper content products such as toilet paper, napkins, paper towels and computer printer paper. These are products we use at the inn.
It’s almost as crazy as using clean drinking water to water your grass. That’s another topic.
I was reading our Green Hotels newsletter yesterday and there was a short article on water footprints. We have all heard about carbon footprint but water footprint was new to me. Water is a resource that should be conserved. Some say water will be the next oil in terms of scarcity of fresh water supplies.
At Cedar House Inn we value water and try to conserve it as much as we can. Low flow shower heads and sink aerators have been installed in all bathrooms. Guest reminder stickers are in the bathroom asking guests not to waste water. We use low flush toilets throughout the property and have composting toilets that require no water. Guest bed and bath linens are not changed daily (unless requested) to save laundry water. An Energy Star washing machine and dishwasher have also been installed that use less water compared to conventional appliances.
In our owner’s area we have a bucket to catch the cold water coming out of the bathtub faucet prior to the warm shower water arriving. We use it to flush the toilet or water the plants. We also use the “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” philosophy in our bathroom. I save my “liquid gold” for reuse as nitrogen fertilizer (see earlier blog post on this topic). We turn off the sink when we brush our teeth is another water saving tip.
A few months ago we installed a new metal roof to capture rainwater more efficiently. We have not installed rain gutters and barrels yet. Our yard is a freedom lawn that requires no water. Native drought tolerant plants have been planted as well.
In terms of shopping the Green Hotels article mentioned the water footprint of products we purchase. For example 20 gallons of water to make a pint of beer, 132 gallons for 2 liters of soda, 500 gallons to make a pair of Levi’s stonewashed jeans. Even some foods have a higher water footprint depending on where they are grown and the type of plant.
I am not suggesting we give up beer or quit wearing bluejeans. I do think we all need to be more mindful of our water usage and footprint.
The Green Hotels newsletter referenced an article on this topic published in Currents, The Wall Street Journal, 2/17/2009 by Alexandra Alter.
When we purchased the house that is now the inn there were not many trees on the property. In fact shrubbery was also missing from the landscape. It looked like a Chernobyl waste site.
Semi trucks and cars would actually park in the front yard to make cell phone calls or use our property as a rest stop. One gentleman drove his Cadillac up to the front door to make a cell phone call in his car. I asked him what he was doing and he said just making a phone call. I said this is my yard and he said it did not look like a yard.
I immediately knew what I had to do. Make a yard.
The sad thing was that the property not only lacked trees but also wildlife and birds. No sounds of birds singing in the spring. It was sad.
We immediately started planting well over 200 fast growing trees like hybrid poplars, hollies and silver maples. We also moved white and black pine trees from the woods. Fast growing shrubs were also planted.
Every trip to Home Depot not only meant purchasing what we needed but also a tree. We added bird feeders, bird houses and bird baths. Guess what happened?
The place became alive again with wildlife ranging from deer to all kinds of birds to possums and raccoons. Have not seen a bear yet.
We also decided to quit mowing most of the 3 acres. Now we mow near the entrance signs and house area. Native grasses and pine trees (that we moved) are now taking over and forming a buffer from the main road.
A friend of my wife’s called and expressed concern that we might be falling on hard times since we quit mowing the property. I informed her we were making our property greener.
We also have quit using synthetic fertilizers and herbicides(see other post on liquid gold). We have a natural lawn in the grass areas since we do not use chemicals.
Our property has been certified as a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the Natural Wildlife Federation. Certification is free and can be done online. We have a sign at our gate indicating certification. The program was launched in 1973 and has certified over 106,000 yards, farms, schools and urban balconies.