Orange is my favorite color

Dean Saxe inspired me to finally publish this post. It’s been sitting in my pending bin for several weeks now. I like his ideas too although I can’t handle the low-flow shower head. Anyways:

People make saving the planet out to be an all or nothing issue. However, there are small, measurable things that you can do every day just by changing your habits. These are things I’ve started doing:

1. Buy a Brita water filter for my office and carry a SIIG aluminum water bottle. Even though plastic water bottles are recyclable, only about 1% of plastic is actually reused. By not buying and drinking plastic water bottles, you send less junk to the landfill. When I do have a plastic water bottle, I crush it before throwing it away for two reasons: it takes up less space wherever it winds up and it discourages reuse for any reason. Not such an issue here, but abroad people reuse the bottle unscrupulously.

2. Bring my own bags to the grocery store. In the back of our car we keep a couple of fabric Whole Foods grocery bags. Plastic grocery bags can’t be recycled and invariably cause a mess. These sturdy bags can carry about 3x the number of groceries meaning less trips from garage to apartment. You also get 5 cents off every time you use them at most major grocery stores.

3. Buy used. Whenever I need something, the first place I look is Craiglist and then Ebay. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Buying used prevents stuff from taking up space in landfills, keeps money in our local economy and saves me a few bucks.

4. Drive 5mph slower. Because the wind resistance of your car increases with the square of your speed, driving 5 mph slower can make a giant impact on your MPG. I towed a boat recently and found that driving 60mph with the 3000lb boat I got 21.5mpg in my 3/4 ton diesel truck. So I tried slowing down from 70-75mph to 65-70mph. My average gas mileage rose 3mpg from 17 to 20. Factor an average of 15 gallons in a tank and you can now drive an extra 50 miles per fill-up. That’s saving you $10/tank at current gas prices by going just a little slower. You also feel more relaxed as I found out.


  1. Doug Moore said:

    on February 14, 2008 at 7:52 am

    I have a set of reusable bags that are fantastic. I live in the city and rarely drive to the grocery store. I keep one of these in my coat pocket at all times and my wife keeps two in her purse.

  2. brian said:

    on February 14, 2008 at 8:17 am

    @Doug – those are very cool! We unfortunately live in the burbs currently so driving is a lame way of life. We keep the whole foods bags in the back of our car but I like that these bags fold up into pocket size. Much easier to use with less to carry. Plus you can throw one in your backpack for any number of uses.

  3. Beth, aka Fake Plastic Fish said:

    on February 15, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Hi. These are great steps to take. Switching to Brita filters certainly uses less plastic than buying bottled water. However, there is still the issue of the plastic filter cartridge that must be disposed of several times per year.

    A group of us are working on a campaign to ask Clorox (the company that owns Brita in the U.S.) to create a take-back recycling program for the filter cartridges. Such a program already exists in Europe. But Brita in Europe is a separate company from Brita in the U.S.

    I encourage you to read my blog posts about this issue and then join our Yahoo Group if you’d like. At this point, we are writing letters to the executives at Clorox but will be planning further actions when we figure out our strategy.

    Scroll down to the bottom if you’d like to read the posts in chronological order.


  4. brian said:

    on February 16, 2008 at 10:26 am

    @Beth- good point. Something I’ve been discussing among my friends is the need for a cradle-to-grave system for identifying what everything “takes”. It’s the “Hummer is more environmentally friendly than the Prius” debate that could use more accurate numbers. Is there a reason you can’t recycle the plastic filter? I was planning to drop it into the recycle bin.

    I would rather not filter the water at all, but in the south bay it has a very strong chlorine taste that I can’t stand. When I lived in San Francisco, we just drank the Hetch Hetchy water straight up!

  5. Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish said:

    on February 16, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Hi Brian.

    The reason they can’t be recycled is that there is no way to open them (without hacking them open with a saw, which I did a few months ago) to remove the activated carbon block or granules, depending on what cartridge you have. You might also find interesting a series I did on my visits to local recycling centers (Oakland, San Leandro, San Francisco) to see how they operate: (You’ll need to scroll down to the bottom to read the posts in order.)

    No way a Brita filter would get sorted properly. the human sorters are looking for narrow-necked bottles, and in some cases, wide-mouthed tubs (only SF). Anything unusually shaped or heavy like a Brita filter will get diverted to the landfill.

    You might like to join us in writing letters to Clorox asking them to develop a way to recycle them as they do in Europe. The URL for the Yahoo group where we are discussing these issues is here:

    Sorry your water tastes funky. I’m in Oakland and since our water tested fine we’ve been going without a filter. But many people don’t have that luxury, and it would be nice for all those plastic filters to be recycled in some way (and not just by dumping them off on China, which is a whole other issue.


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