Category Archives: Ways To Be Green

5 Helpful Tips For Winter Biking

December 27, 2010

Do you want to save a few dollars this winter, maybe for the holiday shopping or vacations? One possible option is to forgo driving and hop on a bike to save gas, insurance, maintenance, or even public transit costs. In this post I will give a few great tips and tricks that can turn winter riding from miserable to fun.

Fenders!

There is a reason that fenders are numero uno on this list. Notice on the pretty pink bike to the left, over each tire there is a round cover, that is called a fender. Fenders are critical to keeping you dry and clean when pedaling around on winter roads. They are positioned over the part of the wheel that flings mud, water, and muddy water on to your face, legs and back.

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Rain Gear!

While fenders will keep you mostly dry from the wet roads, a rain jacket and a pair of rain pants will keep you dry and warm from the rain from above. Just about any waterproof or near waterproof jacket will do, but since you will be exerting yourself, a lighter and more breathable jacket will be better. Rain pants for cycling can be a little tricky. You will want a pair that can support the range of leg motion required to pedal your bike. Make sure that you can squat down and lift and extend your legs without pressing against any seams or too much fabric bunching. You will also want to make sure that your rain pants (or any pants, really) aren’t too baggy around the ankle/calf area. The extra fabric can get caught in the chain or torn on the sprocket teeth. You can reduce bagginess with the help of rubber bands, Velcro straps, or bungee cords.

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Spare Clothes!

I highly recommend either leaving a complete (I really do mean complete!) change of clean clothes at your desk or  locker at work or school. Another option is to carry a change of clothes in your backpack. Even the most prepared winter cyclist can get caught in an epic downpour or forget their jacket or accidentally run through a 6″ deep puddle and end up much wetter than you would have preferred. Running into a bathroom to change from wet clothes to dry clothes can make the difference between a uncomfortable day and a great day.

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A Plan!

You know that beautiful street lined with trees that you love riding through? During the rainy months that street becomes a death trap: wet, slippery leaves coat the asphalt, branches and sticks need dodging, and deep puddles form in clogged sewer drains. Just because you bike comfortably down a road during the summer months does not mean it will be equally enjoyable during the winter. On your first couple of wintery rides take careful note of which roads are debris free, have bike lanes that aren’t small rivers, etc. A slightly longer bike ride without obstacles is better than a shorter ride where your well-being is risked. Also, many bike shops have knowledgeable staff members or even clinics that can help you plan your winter biking routes.

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Eye Protection!

You probably don’t want water, dirt, and sand flung into your eyes, right? Then you especially don’t want that to happen while you are cruising down a hill at 15mph while atop your two-wheeled steed. Just about any pair of sunglasses will prove to be invaluable during your commute. But the short days might mean you leave or come home in the dark, so you will want to get a pair of clear or neon safety glasses. They protect your eyes as much as sunglasses and can be found pretty cheaply at hardware or outdoor stores.

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Have fun and stay safe out there!

Libraries vs. Bookstores

December 16, 2010

Aside from buying one of those electronic reading devices, one of the greenest things you can do in your reading life is to get a library card. It’s free and one of my most favorite things ever. It might seem odd that I’d be touting the merits of libraries since I work at a bookstore. I can go on and on like the Titanic song about how I much I love public  libraries but I just want to focus on the most basic service they offer: lending books.

Readers are often asked which they like best- libraries or bookstores. And it makes it sound as though the choice should be exclusive. In a reader’s world, there’s room for both and each has their own pros and cons.

Libraries are great places to sample authors and their works without having to fork over some hard-earned cash. It’s not uncommon that you’ll find that book that you absolutely must have. That’s where bookstores come in. Sometimes the pages are just asking to be highlighted or underlined or personalized in a way that you can’t do to a library book- at least, you shouldn’t.

For those new releases and current bestsellers that you either want to read right now or at your own leisurely pace, the bookstore is where you want to be. You don’t even have to necessarily buy the book. Just read it there and then. If you’re willing to wait, libraries often get the same titles the same time but it’s the holds list that may try your patience. On the off chance the library does not have a particular title in their system, there’s usually also the option of suggesting a purchase.

Libraries and bookstores may have different sets of rules but, as long as they provide the books readers need and want, there’s no way I can choose between them.

Do you have a preference over the two? What are some things you love about each one?

Free Geek: e-cycling to the Nth power

December 1, 2010

Take a moment and think about that corner in your office, you know the one I’m talking about. Or maybe it’s in your basement, closet, attic, perhaps some other dark, dusty place in your home. You’ll try to ignore it, but how much more old technology is going to fit there? It’s overflowing, becoming a health hazard. Are you really ever going to use that enormous CRT monitor again? Come on, now.

Recently, I decided to tackle the corner; which is when I discovered Free Geek, a nonprofit organization that “refurbishes technology to provide computers, education and job skills in exchange for community service.”

Free Geek Portland

Photo cred. top row:Joan Stevens, bottom row:Carly Dennis

Here’s the deal with FreeGeek, they’re a multi-pronged operation where you can:

  • declutter. Drop off old electronics—computers and nearly anything that can be plugged into them.
  • volunteer. Spend some time helping out Free Geek, and get sweet stuff in return. Volunteers get free classes on building computers, tech support, and using a computer. Volunteers who have racked up a total of 24 hours or have built five computers get a free refurbished computer loaded with Ubuntu, an open source operating system.
  • donate. Non-profits in need of a technology upgrade can receive hardware grants. So far, the Portland location has granted out more than 2,800 refurbished PCs to schools, religious organizations, community centers, and the like.
  • purchase tech on the cheap. Free Geek runs a thrift shop, with all purchases directly supporting the Free Geek Community Technology Center.
  • recycle ancient tech. Outdated materials are “demanufactured” by volunteers and recycled responsibly.

Going through my corner-of-technological-shame, I came up with a full car trunk of old tech. Everything from a heavy, old-school e-mac to the coffee-pocalypse laptop, and the ever-present overflowing box of miscellaneous wires and plugs. All together, we’re talking 5 square feet of sanity returning to my little abode. Priceless.

Here in Portland, we’re lucky to have the original FreeGeek location, aka “the Mothership.” However, satellite locations are opening in urban areas around the country, and can be found at the Free Geek Intergalactic Page. Other certified e-recyclers can be found through e-stewards.org or your local government’s recycling website.

We’re all green here. We know not to dump old tech with our curbside garbage, or trust shady e-recycling programs. Appease the e-waste guilt. Recycle your electronics responsibly, if not creatively.

Green tips for getting rid of Post-Halloween vampires

November 15, 2010

Greetings Green Frugal readers!  My name is Chad, and not only am I a weekend Shipping Associate for MKZbooks/Cash4books, but I’m also the author of a forthcoming book of horror poems called The Vampire Bridegroom.  Now that Halloween is long over (and if you’re like me), you might still have a few leftover pumpkins rotting with green fuzz on the front porch, a diminishing bowl of candy that needs to be dropped off in the break room at work, and a few pesky vampires still hanging around that need to be staked and burnt up.  As the resident vampire expert here at MKZbooks, I thought I would offer a couple of environmentally friendly ways to dispose of those bloodsucking fiends without mucking things up for Mother Nature.

First off, you want to wear a heavy garlic necklace (think a Hawaiian lei of garlic cloves).  This stuff is like Kryptonite for vampires, so you’ll find them much weaker and more pliable if you come prepared.  But here’s the key: your garlic must be organic.  I recommend a local farmer’s market.  Believe me, vampires know the difference.

Next, you have to stake your vampires through the heart.  I know a lot of salesmen will tell you that you have to use brand-name vampire-killing hardware with a toxic chemical varnish.  Folks, I’m here to tell you that’s a bunch of hooey; a wooden stake is a wooden stake after all.  You can re-use a table leg with a slight modification for a sharp tip.

Most importantly, when it’s time to burn up your staked vampire, instead of polluting the atmosphere with a wasteful funeral pyre (remember: you’re not supposed to burn up those raked leaves, either), use what Mother Nature gave us for quick, effective vampire immolation: the sun!  Solar radiation will burn up a vampire lickety-split with almost zero carbon output.

I hope that gives you a few (extra-green) ideas for dealing with those lingering Halloween guests who can’t take a hint that now it’s Thanksgiving’s turn.

A final note: for all of you vampire fans out there, remember to send your vampire novels to Cash4books.net for some quick cash.  We love all kinds of vampire books here: vampire romances, vampire histories, vampire encyclopedias, and even vampire D.I.Y. guides, but please remember not to send us any books you read while actually drinking blood–those little dribbles make resale impossible!

Remodel for pennies on the dollar? Show me the money!

October 20, 2010

recycle this old barn

You could still get a few good beams out of this old barn for reuse

The old adage “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” aptly describes this growing aspect of the green building movement – recycling building materials.

The concept is simple: recycle parts of old houses and buildings that are reusable.  As with most  forms of recycling, this is a win-win situation for everyone.  These businesses are a cross between a Home Depot and an auto-salvage yard. If you are donating or selling your used building materials you get to recycle them. If you are looking for some, you get the same item at substantial savings.  They are especially great if you are searching for those older styles of fixtures, like a clawfoot bathtub for instance.   Instead of demolishing old structures, they are “deconstructed” – pulled apart piece by reusable piece for reuse.

Reused building materials centers are a boon to the home project do-it-yourself types, as well as construction professionals.  Did your dog chew through your door? Need windows for a diy backyard greenhouse or sauna? Did your teenage driver try to “back up” using first gear and take out the garage door? You will love reclaimed building materials centers.

Are you remodeling or renovating your house?  Besides the community, environmental, and “feel good” benefits of donating your deconstructed home materials; building owners can receive substantial tax write-offs for these donations.  That means your remodeling job could come out costing you a fraction of what it would have if you hadn’t recycled those materials.  Not a deconstruction pro? Don’t know what’s worth trying to get a write-off for or not? There are companies that will do this for you and provide IRS Certified auditors, but you have to do your research.

Here in Portland, OR we have a number of recycled building material centers, here are just a few examples:

Boneyard NW

The Rebuilding Center

ReStore

These centers describe themselves in a variety of ways so there is no single phrase to use when searching in your local area. Try combining some of these more common words with phrases like “building materials”,  “remodeling”, or “renovation” :  reclaimed, reuse/reused, renew/renewed, recycled,  green, used, salvaged, eco, and sustainable.

With just a quick search I found some online resources to help you learn more and possibly locate a recycled building materials business in your area:

Builder2Builder

Building Materials Reuse Association

National Association of the Remodeling Industry

ReGreen Residential Remodeling Program

Habitat for Humanity ReStores