Monday, August 31, 2015

Electric BMWs in the LBK? Or, Financial Planning for Idjets!

So last week you may have read a Mesquite Hugger post about the vehicles and such I would buy if I had the money for a Tesla Model S. (By the way, I saw a Model S at the Vine on Friday night.) Well, Sunday morning I received a text from Ben. The text contained a photo of an exotic electric car here in our dusty town. (Ben loves exotic cars and has an appreciation for electric cars. And he is great to snap a pic anytime he sees one. He has supplied us with photos of a few Model S's, a Tesla Roadster, a Ford Fusion Energi PHEV, and various other cool stuff lately.)

Ben's pic of an i8 spotted here in Lubbock
 
By our count, that makes three electric BMWs in town - two i3's and this i8.

The cool but vastly less sexy i3
 
The i8 is BMW's answer to the Tesla, and outside of Tesla land, it is one of the more impressive electric cars out there, but it still burns some gasoline and costs twice what a Model S costs. Twice!

So, I will do the shorter version here with lots of changes because I've had time to think:

If I had the Money for a BMW i8, I'd...

...try to talk the wife into a used Volt. Neither of us are Chevy fans, but it really is hard to beat the Volt for price, reliability, and range if you are looking at plug-in hybrids. And, they are good looking cars. $15,000. (With the balance we save from buying the Fusion PHEV, we could pay for some education she has been wanting.)

...pay off the fabulous young woman's college!

...put $20,000 into the little brother's college savings account.

...pay someone to complete my electric Mazda pickup project for my daily runabout and invest in a high-powered generator to make it capable of long-distance travel. I would keep our junky old Dodge Ram for bigger hauls, but drive it as little as possible. (Since I don't have the money or time fantasized about in this post, the Mazda is going up for sale in my attempt to cut back on unrealistic [for me] projects.)

...finish both Silver ElectroPigeons. (Woohoo!)

...go solar! Our home would be very green and Lubbock Power and Light could stop burning coal and natural gas on our behalf!



...put $15,000 into starting something similar to Good Karma Bikes here in the Hub City. (Thanks, diybiking.com!)

That should leave about $20,000 for retirement and a nice long vacation.

OR

...forget all of the previous plans and move to Costa Rica where I could compose blog posts in the sand on the beach and share fabulous sunsets with my wife!

May your dorky green plans come true!

 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Randomness: a bug, some geese, the sun, and a number even bigger than 47

Sometimes a little random is good.
 
 
A female katydid in our front yard
 
The Canadians are already showing up in town
 
A sunrise south of Post, Texas

Overnight, Mesquite Hugger topped 20,000 hits. 
 
Thank y'all, each and every one!!!

The De-Flopillator and a Cool Electric Cargobike (Radwagon)

Trying to cut back on your car usage? Here's a cool option.


As part of my personal carbon reduction goals, I've been crushing on longtail cargobikes for a while now. I've drooled over Yubas, Xtracycles, Surlys and many others. These are some very cool machines, but the non-electric versions of these definitely hang out on the edge of my financial means. I like the longtail and the midtail bikes because they retain a lot of their fundamental bike-ishness. You get to ride it, lean it, and park it like a normal bike, and it still fits through skinny-ish places. However, you can still use one to haul the kids, your sweetie, the groceries, or 100 pounds of manure (to use in your personal-carbon-reduction garden). I have to admit, I like bakfeits and cycletrucks too, but not as much as the longtails.

A TreeHugger article about a short longtail or a long midtail cargo bike, the RadWagon, popped up yesterday. The article shows a very appealing electric cargo bike that costs about what you'd pay for some of the non-electric versions, and it links to an Electric Bike Report video (which mentions the De-Flopillator).  The video covers the bike in great detail. (And snagit!) it has me dreaming.


For me, the best part of driving my little pickup (Lucy) is having the ability to make things happen quickly. If I am trucking down a street and see some really appealing thing sitting on the curb with a "free" sign on it, I pull over and load it up. Keith and Grizz are still upset that I did not load up those three free mannequins that I did not snag while riding by on my bike. (But I think their marriages are better off this way.) When I think about a cargo bike I also think about the number of times I ride my by bike home to get the truck so I can buy groceries and of the days when I don't ride the bike because I have to pick up 44 pounds of dog food on my way home. Yep, having a cargo bike with electric assist could go a long way to lowering my personal carbon production. And my eco-dork cred could go through the roof, which is more important in my self image than I'd like to admit.

So here's this really impressive $1700 bike out there ($1400 if you act now) and it's haunting me a bit. How many needs could be covered with this one machine?  What could this machine do for my carbon reduction goals? How much of a fair-weather biker am I? Would the orange paint clash with my green ideals? Would I have made a different choice on the mannequins if I'd been on the RadWagon?

May you be dreaming of or haunted by ways to make carbon reduction improvements.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Personal Carbon Reduction: Transportation Intro


 
Step 1 (Pun intended.)
Let's start simple on the transportation. In most cases, the simpler the machine, the lower its carbon cost. If you want to go ultra-low carbon, start with a good pair of shoes. Range and speed may be low, but you can't beat your literal footprint for lowering your carbon footprint. I do more and more walking these days and find it to be therapeutic as well carbon neutral. And it helps me to stay more connected to what is happening in my neighborhood. [If my destination is within a mile, I try to walk.]
 
 
Pedal-Power
The next step for me is a plain, old bicycle. Super-low carbon footprint, improved health, improved budget, and a wider physical range (than walking) combine to make a bike a great way to get around. You can easily buy a quality used bike for less than it costs to buy one tire for most cars. [If my destination is within three and half miles (and I am traveling alone) I try to take the bike. In truth, I love to bike.]
 
Next, I'll throw a curve with a gas-powered motorcycle, scooter, or moped. While most of them burn considerably less fuel than your average car, many of them also emit a lot more harmful gases than your average car. So, yes, you will burn less fuel, but you can do a lot more environmental damage by riding one. We'll talk more about gas-powered two wheelers in the near future. [I am not ready to discuss my scooter addiction, but I ride a lot less these days.]
 
Bike vs. Car ($$$)
 
So let's talk about petroleum-powered cars.
Cars (and light trucks) are often the most convenient, luxurious, and destructive way to get around, especially in a suburban setting like Lubbock. They are also very expensive - taking up at least 30% of the budget in many American homes. If you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint, dependence on the car is going to be one of your biggest obstacles, and cars are deeply ingrained in our national culture. Take some time and think about it. How prominent is the car in your life, your budget, and even your self image? Is it worth it? (Ouch!) [I drive my little worn-out truck a lot, and I cringe each time.]
 

 
Petroleum-Powered Buses
Buses are funny things in the eco world. As a single vehicle, a bus has a pretty ugly carbon footprint until you hit the "divide" button on the calculator. If there are 30 people riding the bus (instead of driving 30 cars) the carbon footprint looks pretty awesome. With a bus, it's all about numbers, and when you have enough riders, a bus is a pretty green machine. [I need to ride the bus a lot more. Since Lubbock buses have bike racks on the front, riding the bus is a great way to ride a bike during extreme temperature days. I can bike to work in the morning on 100 degree days and ride the bus home in the afternoon heat. The opposite works well on really cold days.]
Jet Travel
Ouch! It's truly astounding how terrible jet travel is for the well-being of the planet and the organisms that hope to continue breathing. We have to find a better way. [It's really rare for me to fly, and I am okay with that.]

Electric and Hybrid Electric Vehicles
If you've read this far, you are probably wondering about the electric vehicles that show up so often on the Mesquite Hugger posts. Well, you're going to have to wait - I am saving those for another PCR installment.
 
 May we find our way with as little carbon spent as possible.
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lubbock Local Wildlife: No Dog Park, But a Great Frog Park!

We've been a little worried about Sasha lately. She's been a little listless and whiny since the fabulous young lady left for college. We're not sure if she has been depressed or if her stomach is hurting from eating a whole package (4 sticks!) of butter while we were unpacking groceries. (She's a rather artful dodger at grocery time.) So, yesterday she and I went for a walk around our favorite park, and she perked right up. I don't think it was the park per se. I think it was the special attention and a fraggle of frogs. Big frogs! Bullfrogs!

Things are drying up.

Big Bob (or Bertha)

More big uns!

Lots of smaller frogs facing the sun

Frog in duckweed

Lots of frogs in duckweed

a 2" catfish

For non-fish non-amphibian people

Feeling so much better!


In case you don't take Sasha's word for the importance of spending time in nature, here's another article from the Vibrant Wellness Journal:

10 Reasons that Nature Time Is Important (I like 6 and 9, Sasha goes for 4 and 8.)


video
Bonus: Frog Video!!!
 
May you get away from it all and be better for the experience!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Personal Carbon Reduction: Less Frantic Equals More Green

It happened today - all hell broke loose Lubbock schools are back in session. As I made my way to work, I noticed the angry and fearful looks in lots of eyes. I saw people rushing to get to the next light to slam on the brakes. I saw traffic backed up on the loop due to some bumper bumping. Our town was a big nasty ball of stress this morning.


And it's about time. (Really, it has to do with time.)

Before we jump into the details of personal carbon reduction, let's talk about time. Most of us, myself included, complain that there's not enough time in the day, and that time controls us. Maybe it's time to do something about that.



Let me lay out two possible mornings for me:

I watched one too many shows on Netflix last night. The alarm catches me off guard, so I snooze it for ten twenty thirty more minutes. I jump up, run around franticly, shave, shower, find clothes, shoes, belt, glasses, feed the dogs, apologize to the dogs for skipping the morning scratch, run out the door to the truck, run back in remembering some of what I forgot. I look longingly at the helmets (bike and scooter). Run back out, jump in the truck, look at the gas gauge, curse, and speed off to start my day late with all the other people who started like I did. PS. I left my lunch in the fridge, so it'll be some version of fast food and driving around at lunch today.

I wake up ten minutes before the alarm. (I shut the TV off by 9:30 last night and got some stuff ready before going to bed.) I get up before the alarm (which allows my wife to get a little more sleep.) Shave/shower/dress - I laid out my clothes last night, so dressing goes quickly. I fed the dogs last night, so I just top off their bowls. I spend a few minutes scratching Mattie and Kylie. Their joy is infectious. I smile and laugh while scratching them. I packed the backpack last night and set the helmet, lock, and glasses with the backpack. I grab my leftovers from the freezer. I head off on the bike knowing that I am early enough to get a good table at the coffeehouse and not wait in line, and knowing that I will arrive at work with a feeling of accomplishment rather than relief at having made it through the rat race.

Does any of it sound familiar? The more time you have create for yourself, the easier it is to make greener choices and healthier/less stressful choices. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes.

Low hanging fruit to create more time:
  • Turn off the TV - or turn it off sooner. Set a limit before you sit down.
  • Same thing with the phone/computer game
  • Same thing with Face-A-Gram-A-Twit
  • Go to bed twenty minutes earlier and get up ten minutes earlier
  • Set aside a little time dedicated to housekeeping
  • Set aside a little time dedicated to thought, meditation, prayer, whatever floats your brain
  • Examine the day - figure out what made it more or less stressful and adjust as needed
What does all of that have to do with personal carbon reduction? When you are less stressed and have more time, you are likely to make better choices. Simply taking your lunch to work in a reusable container versus idling in the drive thru line to buy a Chick-Fil-A meal wrapped in paper, plastic, cardboard, and styrofoam makes a massive difference in your personal carbon consumption. Add a little exercise, a little more (or better) sleep, and more satisfaction for a day well-spent - you are quite likely to start your own green revolution and drag others along with you. Have you ever seen a social circle, workplace, or family where one person makes better choices and the others follow along? It's amazing to watch, and it's even better to be a part of it. So, snagit, get it started!

May tiny steps lead to massive change.

Friday, August 21, 2015

If I could afford a Tesla Model S... (Electric Car Dreaming)

Spotted in a CVS parking lot!!
 
In the past few weeks I have seen 5 Teslas out on the road. And they are phenomenally cool cars. Actually, they may be too cool for a middle-aged, middle-classed, ordinary, average guy like me. I can't see myself owning one or spending that much on a single vehicle. I do love what the car represents, which is a big ol' nose tweeking to GM, Ford, Nissan, KIA, VW, etc. to show all the whiners that a realistic gasless car can be done and done successfully. I am very thankful for Tesla and look forward to the day when they introduce an electric car for the common man, woman, or person of whatever gender. (Come on, Model 3!) Until that day...

 
...I'd buy my wife a Ford Fusion Energi (the PHEV model - Roughly $25,000 after incentives for a new one.) The freedom to use it as a plug-in electric car or a long-range hybrid road tripper, well it's hard to beat that for the primary family car. And, she's that person whose phone goes dead often. She has an impressive number of virtues and charms, but keeping a battery charged - not so much.

 
If a tadpole had wheels...(MiEV)

I'd buy myself a used Nissan Leaf (even though I still have a strange affinity for a Mitsubishi MiEV.)
I keep running across used Leafs for $9000-$10,000 and used MiEVs for $6500-$9000) and I'd put a new(er) engine in my little truck Lucy while dreaming that someone will build me a little hybrid or electric truck. It's hard to live without a little truck around, especially when your brain gets all Mesquite Huggery and needs barrels, pallets, etc. (Oh, the hypocritical irony.)

Leaf Pickup?!!!
 
 
 
Then I would pay off the Fabulous Young Lady's undergraduate education...

 

ElectroPigeon 2 and Spencer!

...and I'd order ElectroPigeon #2 some bad mamajama electric running gear.

A place unlike Lubbock, Texas
 
And I'd take Fabulous Wife Lady on a long-deserved trip to someplace very unlike our home town.

Or I might chuck the whole plan and go buy us a tiny smaller home, then sell our house and see how much closer that gets us to something that looks like retirement. (Curse you, practical side of the brain!)

Lucy!
 
Until I reach that point, however, I will pour another quart of oil in Lucy and do my best to limit my driving. I have a virtue or two as well, but bringing home the excess bacon - not so much.

May you find yourself with a better solution than what currently gets you around and may it be within your budget.

More Funky Electric Vehicle Temptations - August 2015

Temptation, snagit!

Let me start this by saying that the budget is tight and that I have too much stuff already. So, I won't actually pursue any of this stuff, and I have the dream of one day riding an ElectroPigeon, so there's no need for distraction. But distraction, it keeps the brain a-hopping!

Tempting Suzuki on the right, cool old Triumph on the left

You may remember a few weeks back when I wrote about temptation that arose when I took a friend to a motorcycle shop. I conflictedly fell in love with a little Suzuki motorcycle, but the conflict came with the fact that it burns gasoline. And I have no plans of bringing home extra gas burners. I saw one this weekend in a parking garage in Arlington, and it was cool and very desirable for a gas burner, but...we already talked about that. The appeal of a small motorcycle is that it is an economical and highly enjoyable form of suburban transport. And this one, like me, looks old, but, unlike me, it's new and reliable and has a fairly significant range. But it's counterproductive to one of my main goals - personal carbon reduction. I don't need a Suzuki.

 
So, I went off and found myself an electric Yamaha on EVTradinpost.com. And it's a lot more like me. It's not too pretty, has been around the block a time or two, and it was worn out and resurrected a bit. And, at $1500, it's less expensive, but it's on the West Coast. And there's still the ElectroPigeon(s) to consider.

 
While on EV Tradin' Post, I also ran across a good deal on a Toyota truck electric conversion, and it is located in Austin. It's always encouraging when they are closer to home. At $2000 (needs batteries) it could be a very good deal for someone needing to run around town in  a small truck.


 
A few days ago I was discussing with my wife how I think that an ideal platform for a solar powered electric vehicle would be a very small van. And then it appeared on Ebay. A 1980 Electric Subaru - it's definitely more expensive than the other two, but look at the potential. And, if I could make the solar panels look like surfboards on the roof...The ElectroKahuna! (It's amazing I'm still married!)

 
While on Ebay, I also noticed this lovely Citicar with a really low bid so far. So cool.
 
May your temptations lead to funky, healthy things and places.
 
PS. Happy birthday, JG!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Minipost: Bike Commuter Nirvana Ending - Act Now!

 
Okay, it's happened. Another perfectly good summer has passed us by. I don't know about you, but I have not spent as much time on a bike as I had hoped, and now I am in mourning. The kids go back to school on Monday. Parents in SUVs, minivans, pickups, and overcrowded sedans will be dropping the kids off. They will be stressed out and running late. They will be drinking coffee, eating breakfast, texting, yelling, and creating general mayhem on the streets. And the busier they are, the more resentful they will be of a bicycle's presence on their unholy ground.
 
So, you have today and tomorrow to enjoy the less crowded roads. Get out there and experience the relative freedom of the realtively open road. You owe it to yourself to enjoy this closing window of opportunity while you can.
 
May you be safe, joyful, and green! (And may the parents and children thrive this year (and leave the house 5 minutes earlier.)

Personal Carbon Reduction: Part 2 - The What



Okay, I admit it. I have been in analysis paralysis on this one. I had a lot of windshield time this weekend and kept my brain busy organizing part two.

A very young Houstonian Carolina anole


I might have spent too much time thinking about it. From Lubbock to Arlington I came up with a long list of possible categories for personal carbon reduction. From Arlington to Houston I arm-wrestled it down to three. From Houston back to Arlington I wondered why there were so many Carolina anoles in South Texas, why there is a building in Houston with the DeLorean logo on it, and how a road with so many hills and trees could seem so desolate. From Arlington to Lubbock I listened to a terrible novel, added a fourth category, and swore off road trips forever!


Transportation
     From tennis shoes to travel cross-country, we will delve into getting from point A to point B as cleanly , greenly, and carbon-freely as possible.

 
At Home
     Cooking, cleaning, heating, cooling, and keeping the place in shape, we'll delve into reducing carbon consumption at home.

 
Food
     What is the carbon impact of the food you put in your mouth? How can you make your meals healthier for all of us?

 
Extending Your Reach
     This is where we drop the "Personal" in our PCR and look at ways of spreading the word, of becoming more than just a few idiots who recycle aluminum cans. (But there's nothing wrong with recycling aluminum cans!)

May we learn together and accomplish much!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

PCR Sidebar: Trashy Neighborhood Revisited

A photo from There is no "Away"
 
My neighborhood has stepped up trashing itself lately. I have a pretty direct barometer for measuring this - I pick up trash when walking to Yellowhouse, Walter's World, and Uncle Chein's. And the bags have been filling up more quickly. I used to leave the house with one bag. Then I switched to two. Now I've gone to four
.
One of four bags I picked up on my last Saturday walk
 
Most items recur often: straws, plastic drink bottles, plastic liquor bottles, beer cans, energy drink cans, red Solo cups, cigarette cartons, fast food bags, wasteful "free" newspapers that never get picked up, plastic utensils, styrofoam food containers, coupon slicks. Lots of disposable stuff. It gets overwhelming and sometimes depressing. We are trashy, trashy people.

And a great deal of the trash I pick up is not recyclable. At least half of the plastic is grade 5 or 6. Lubbock recycles only grades 1 and 2. We have no provisions for styrofoam recycling. The majority of what I pick up goes into the dumpster. It's begun to feel really futile. (But I have no plans of stopping.) The bottom line is that it's not enough to pick it up - we need to stop making it easy or available to throw down.

A straw and a drink lid outside my office this morning

So, it struck a chord with me this week when Treehugger ran an article about Heather Itzla, a California woman who walks her dogs and picks up trash along the way:

How dog-walking turned into plastic waste activism

The TH article led me to Heather's website, thereisnoaway.net . I felt instant camaraderie with her (and her dogs) and I realized that she had taken things several steps further than I have. Check out all of the different pages on the website. My favorite page is the blog - I know what a picture is worth, but  the words (and the high quality photos) on the blog paint a much more complete picture of Heather's crusade. Please pay particular attention to the straw crusade.

The Americano I had for breakfast - no need to trash or recycle a cup, lid, straw, or stirrer
 
In case you want to learn more about reusable vs. disposable, here is another Treehugger article to add to your reading list:
 
 
May we all live on a less trashy planet.