Soap Box

My very own cute little soap box!

Posts Tagged ‘energy’

Savannah

Posted by eemilla on December 16, 2012

In order to introduce LB to some family members we haven’t seen since the baby shower, we drove down the road and decided to continue south to Savannah to enjoy their food scene and parks.  The squares and walking were lovely, and we enjoyed Tybee Island enough to return for a second day.  My husband and I would like to return for another visit to check out a few of the sites we missed, and I’m sure LB would like to return to the beach for more sand castle construction.

Savannah originally had 24 squares, and we set out to see those remaining.  New Orleans Square was my favorite with the its pretty green and white fountain although Washington Square’s green and burgundy plantings were quite pretty as well.  The Columbia Square fountain is pretty too, and Troup Square has my favorite sculpture followed closely by Wright Square.  Ellis and Crawford Squares have been paved with one being a market and the latter being a basketball court, and Elbert Square was erased from the map long ago.  Reynolds’ bricks reminded me of NC State.  Lafayette Square has a taller fountain than Columbia, but The Cathedral of St John the Baptist steals the spotlight.

The Telfair Academy has a steep admission of $12 per person for its small collection (especially considering the third floor space was closed), and they don’t allow any photography in the building (we had a guard follow us throughout our visit); we upgraded to the $20 per person pass so we could also see the Owen-Thomas house and gardens and the Jepson Museum as well.  Unfortunately between running out of time (the Owen-Thomas house closes at 4:30), being too tired after the sun and sand at the beach, and forgetting the passes at the condo we never got around to the other museums.

We rented a condo a few blocks south of the historic district and a few blocks west of Forsyth Park, and it was a great location with a full kitchen and a washer and dryer.  Although there was a patio, after walking around all day I had no desire to leave the sanctuary of the air conditioning.  We were skeptical about the on street parking, but as we only moved the car for our Tybee Island visits and the street cleaning, parking wasn’t an issue.

Forsyth Park trees

Forsyth Park trees

Forsyth Park Fountain

Forsyth Park FountainOrleans Square fountain

Washington Square
Washington Square

Columbia Square fountain

Columbia Square

Troupe Square

Troupe Square

Wright Square

Wright Square

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Reedy River Park and the Greenville Zoo

Posted by eemilla on November 3, 2012

I’ve wanted to visit the Falls Park in Greenville for a while after hearing so much about it from various friends over the years so I talked my mom into joining LB and I for a day trip a few months back.  I was surprised to learn that the trail is over seventeen miles long connecting Travelers Rest to Furman to downtown Greenville to Greenville Tech.  It makes me really sad that Asheville and Buncombe County cannot get their acts together and create some substantive greenways, especially when so much of our economy is based on tourism and enjoying the natural beauty that surrounds us.  Also what a better way to move away from fossil fuels than to have pleasant walking and biking trails and paths.  My husband and I live less than two miles from our jobs, but the commute would be neither pleasant nor safe as it involves a five lane highway for at least a quarter of the route.

We arrived around mid morning so there were still a number of joggers and cyclists getting their exercise in for the day.  Shops along the trail were just opening, and no one was playing in the water feature.

water feature

The pathway took us on a small bridge across the river before we arrived at the iconic Liberty Bridge.

bridge over the falls

Liberty Bridge

Liberty Bridge again

The gardens were pretty with lots of lawn for picnics or benches for relaxing

amphitheater

We ambled along the trail by the river chatting, and when I saw that the Greenville Zoo was only a mile or two away I convinced my mom we should go.

We stopped seeing the zoo on the informational signs along the trail so we ended up making a huge loop around it (which meant we walked around Cleveland Park and on the Eagle Trail).  However, there wasn’t a line to enter the zoo, and the admission was the same as the WNC Nature Center; I could have gotten free admission as the zoo is a reciprocal facility with the Nature Center.  The zoo was small and easy to see in an hour or less although we skipped the flamingos, alligator, farm animals, and the playground.

elephant

toucan

leopard

By this time everyone was tired and hungry so we made our back, and after we had returned to downtown LB was more than ready to be off my sweaty back which led us to eat at a smoothie bar because it was quick and filled with people in workout attire.  It was relatively cheap and served decent food, but it I doubt I would go back unless urged by convenience.

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Cloth Diaper costs

Posted by eemilla on January 9, 2012

I couldn’t put off doing the math any longer on how much we have invested in cloth diapering.

Diapers and wipes: $388

Essential oils for wipe solution (I estimated how much we’ll use in 13 months based on current usage):  $111

Increased cost of water and electricity: $455 (about $15 per month in higher water bills and $20 per month in higher electric bills for our electric water heater and dryer)

Total estimated costs of cloth diapering at 13 months: $954

Based on GoodGuide’s rating alone, I did the math on disposables assuming we’d use Huggies Pure and Natural from Target.  I assumed LB would use ten diapers daily for 90 days at size one, 120 days at size two, and 180 days at size three.  For the wipes, I kept it easy by only using one wipe per diaper change.  I didn’t go any further because at 13 months the cloth diapers are the cheaper option by several hundred dollars.

Three months of size one: $238

Four months of size two: $352

Six months of size three: $542

Thirteen months of wipes: $268

Total Estimated Cost of Disposable Diapers for 13 months: $1400

As long as the one size diapers continue to work until she’s potty trained, we should plan a fat vacation.  As a note I did look at using generic wipes and diapers, and our route was more costly for the first 13 months.  By nineteen months, the savings with cloth (again assuming we don’t have to purchase any additional diapers) would be about $500.  I also assumed that neither brand of disposable diapers or wipes would cause diaper rashes.

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Eating Crow

Posted by eemilla on August 24, 2011

Of the things I promised not to do as a parent, my scorecard is already a mixed bag.  I knew we wouldn’t meet all of the goals, but I did expect that it would take longer for us to fall off the wagon.
My goal of using cloth diapers exclusively ended minutes after LB’s birth as she was wheeled off to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).   We started using cloth as soon as we got home.  However we plan on resuming our spring tradition of attending The French Broad River Festival, and I might bow to the convenience of disposables (plus I’m not certain we’ll have enough to do without laundry facilities).  Thankfully our childcare provider is supportive of cloth diapering.
I would like to note that our electricity and water bills have increased nominally, and with this heat wave the a/c likely accounts for most of the increased electricity consumption; we also have been slacking on hanging her laundry out on the line to dry.  Even with the increased consumption, our rate plan is about even with the standard plan so we will be sticking with it and working harder to reduce on-peak consumption.  Once I return to work this should be easier.
As for limiting screen time, my husband & I watch TV or surf the internet while holding her.  Even if I turn her away she will turn back towards the screen.  We have not yet used the screen as a babysitter, but as I said before I understand that will become harder as she gets older.
It took about three weeks before I realized that we hadn’t read to her once since her birth, and even though I am reading to her it is far from daily in frequency.
Although I am still breastfeeding, I am looking forward to her weaning.  While I haven’t had any issues, aside from thrush, nursing is a chore.  I love the time she spends cuddled against me and most of the noises she makes, but I hate my sore nipples.  I hate that my other breast leaks while she nurses because it makes public nursing that much harder, and selfish as it is I miss my beer, liquor, and wine.  Due to my knowledge of the benefits of breastmilk, my distrust of food processors and their regulators, and my frugality I cannot see myself discontinuing breastfeeding until LB is eating food, and I hope returning to work will help me appreciate our nursing relationship more.
LB has recently outgrown her 0-3 month clothes without even wearing all of them; of those I believe I purchased only three.  My pack rat tendencies want to put everything in storage containers, but hopefully common sense will prevail and I’ll be able to trade them for larger clothes.
I’m optimistic about making her food and keeping the birthdays within reason, and I am hopeful about the breastfeeding.

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Our kid won’t . . .

Posted by eemilla on May 30, 2011

It is possible that I could give birth to this kid any day now, and as I am officially over the forty-week mark I’m certainly ready.  In talking with experienced parents from friends to family to co-workers my husband and I have said more than once that we will not be doing this or that or allowing our kid to do this or that, so I thought that it might be interesting to post some of them here as a reference and check back over the years to see how our opinions changed.

Cloth Diapers

Before I got pregnant or really even thought seriously about having children, I always knew that I would use cloth diapers.  Most striking is the explicit cost to diaper a child; I checked with Ingles and EarthFare for the Seventh Generation brand diapers, and they run about $12 plus tax for 44 diapers in the infant size.  Based on what I’ve read a breast feed baby will go through about eight diapers a day, which means about 5.5 days for one pack of diapers (Pampers at Ingles were only a bit less at $10 plus tax of $50, and I didn’t write down Target’s prices).  An organic cotton pre-fold cloth diaper costs about $3.25 plus the $13 waterproof cover; this diaper can be used until the kid outgrows it, and then it could be used as a doubler for a pocket diaper or a cleaning rag even later.  The pocket diapers resemble disposable diapers more than the pre-folds which are what my mom thinks of as a cloth diaper, and they are a bit more expensive (about $18); however, since our kid will be in day care we’ll have to use them.  While we have spent a good bit of money on getting our stash set up, in the end we’ll come out on top.

The explicit costs are important, but the health and environmental costs should weigh even heavier.  Dioxin is a known carcinogen, but it is used in diapers, maxi pads, and tampons to bleach the cotton or paper bright white.  Then you have the polymers that are used in the soaking layer to be concerned about; how long did we use plastic before it was discovered that some plastics leach endocrine disrupters and hormone mimics?  Finally the environmental cost is staggering.  Not only will the diapers far out live their users, they require lots of water and oil to produce.  The water is a double whammy because most diapers wind up in the landfill with the poop in place rather than having the poop emptied into the toilet for sanitary processing.

Anytime I bring this up, I hear about what an onerous choir laundry is for any baby much less a baby soiling cloth diapers.  I can always safely counter with the example my mom set.  She worked full time outside the home and used cloth diapers with all three of us, and my dad was absolutely no help.  Although I could be mistaken based on our ages she most likely had two of us in diapers at all times.  My husband is an absolute foil of my father so between the two of us I know we can make it work, and really the economic incentive is just too tantalizing to forgo.

Electricity Rate Plan

About a year ago we decided to change our electricity rate plan to time of use which encourages one to use energy on off peak times.  This has easily lowered our electricity bill by about $10 a month without creating any undue hardship.  We were really concerned about adding the air conditioner, but after its first month we haven’t seen an increase, even though when it was being installed the contractors were using huge lights to see in the crawl space during peak energy time.  The challenge with the peak energy use is going to be the laundry because we only use our major appliances (aside from the air conditioner and furnace) during off peak hours, which are currently from 9pm to 10am Monday through Friday and excluding major holidays (they change from September to March to 6am-1pm and 4pm-9pm), but I am determined to at least try it for a few months.  We can continue to do the bulk of the laundry over the weekend, and as long as the weather cooperates we’ll continue to dry most of the laundry on the clothesline.

Exclusive Breast Feeding and Making our own Baby Food

We’ve decided to breast feed for many of the same reasons that we are going to cloth diaper, and although I’ll be returning to work about three months postpartum, I plan on exclusively breast feeding for at least six months then allowing self weaning as the kid expresses interest in what we eat with the expectation that I’ll still be nursing at least once a day for at least a year.  In conjunction with this resolution, we’ll be making our own baby food.  Again the explicit costs of buying baby food just don’t jive with the time savings, and being the dedicated environmentalists that we are, why should the baby eat food with more miles on it than we do?  Also all those little jars and containers would be one more thing to find new uses for or to recycle.  Of course, we will continue to limit the amount of processed foods that enter our house.  I grew up in a house free of fruit roll ups and soda, and the tradition will continue.

Screen Time

Neither of us were allowed to spend all day inside watching TV or playing video games, and we plan on continuing that tradition with our little one.  We don’t want to ever use the TV or computer or iPod as a babysitter, and we would like to limit daily exposure to the less than two hours a day recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  We both realize what a challenge this might become, especially on long road trips and as the kid spends more and more time outside of the home.

Daily Reading

By reading each and every day to the little one, we hope to make it easier to limit the screen time as well as foster imagination and diction.  Reading and books were so important to me growing up, and I still love them (although I don’t prioritize reading as much as I should).

Wretched Excess

We are both relatively frugal when it comes to material purchases, although we make up for it with our epicurean expenditures, and this is something we want to continue with the kid.  Again we recognize that we won’t be able to completely stop family and friends, but there are strategies around the excesses of others.  In the line of regifting, I’ve heard of parents going through gifts sent by family who refuse to stop going overboard and culling the keepers and donating the rest.  Of the keepers, some go into storage to be gifted at a later time.  We’ll try to give experiences over stuff, and with the stuff we’ll try to be pragmatic with some and fun with others (here’s a great idea to help).  Besides our tiny little house is almost busting at the seams already with baby stuff, dog stuff, cat stuff, and our stuff.

Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated!

 

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Earth Day Rant

Posted by eemilla on April 22, 2011

In honor of Earth Day, I’m hopping on my soapbox and giving my Earth Day Rant about three things that drive me crazy.

My largest pet peeve related to shopping is when my husband buys a beer or a box of beer that comes with a convenient handle, and he has to literally argue with the cashier that he doesn’t need a bag; many cashiers claim it is illegal to allow him to carry the beer outside of the store without a bag (I’ve worked as a cashier in a few different stores, and I was never required to do this).  I also get irked at the assumption that regardless of the number of groceries or items one might have a bag is requisite; nevermind that I walked through the store carrying everything I am buying without the assistance of a bag or a basket or a cart.

Earth Fare both irritated and cheered me for changing their bag donation policy; for the longest time, if you brought your own bag OR didn’t use a bag, Earth Fare would either donate $0.10 to the charity of the month or give you a $0.10 discount.  I believe it was around a year ago, they reduced the donation to $0.05, and it is only applicable if you have a reusable grocery bag (not your purse or backpack).  I don’t mind losing the discount as I always donated it, but I do hate that Earth Fare won’t give up the donation unless I put my half pound of mozzarella in a reusable bag.  They cheered me when they began requiring a donation for paper bags and eliminated plastic bags altogether (thewebsite says the donation is voluntary, but it also says if you chose not to donate the $0.05 then they give you a cardboard box not a bag).  They also sell reusable bags near the check out and at most of the checkout lines at the South Asheville location.

Along with the annoyances I have to also applaud Target for giving a $0.05 discount for reusing a bag as well as selling cheap $0.99 bags at the front of the store and at every checkout lane.  My favorite grocery store, the French Broad Food Co-op, charges for the plastic containers in the bulk room as well as selling heavy duty cotton bags and more light weight less expensive bags like those at Target.

I wish all stores would encourage customers to bring their own bags and containers either by giving a discount or by charging a fee for the bag; I also want the Coop and Earth Fare to stop providing the really thin plastic containers that are not dishwasher safe.  One of my resolutions was to stop using to-go containers for leftovers at restaurants, but unfortunately, I have failed miserably.  On the upside, we are not using new bags in the produce or bulk department when we go shopping.  Following the example set my mother and my step mother in law, we are washing out sandwich bags and  the green bags we use for produce (which purportedly keep produce fresher longer, but I like because they are strong enough to be washed unlike the freebies in the produce isle).

Secondly, I don’t want to hear one more word about how much gas costs.  I, too, hate paying almost fifty dollars to fill up the gas tank; however, we pay much lower gas rates than the rest of the world, and we generally have a choice in which vehicle we drive.  There are also many well published tips to reduce your fuel consumption (combine trips, drive less aggressively, fill up after the sun is down, carpool, or don’t drive).

Before my pregnancy we were a one car household even though we both work full time jobs with different hours.  We were able to make this work because neither of us mind walking along a busy road without sidewalks or even much of a shoulder; we live about a 1.25 walk from the bus line; and my work commute is a less than two mile walk.  Sadly, the bus runs every 1.5 hours between about 6:30a (1st run out of downtown) and 5:30p (last run out of downtown), which means we couldn’t even use it for an early night out much less a night shift commute.  I should note that there is a night route but the closest stop is about five miles from the bus stop that is 1.25 miles from our house, but again most of the five mile walk is along a five lane road with several hundred feet of sidewalks interspersed with parking lots and grassy stretches (some of which are steep banks that are difficult to traverse).  While I could walk the almost two miles from my work to my home, much of the walk is along the same five lane heavily travelled road, but this stretch contains not one sidewalk.  Fortunately much of that stretch is through parking lots, but there is a stretch that is like a goat trail which leads to a vacant lot.  Neither are generally cut so the weeds can and do hide broken bottles and various other trash (I never encountered any used condoms!)  Please note that both stretches of road mentioned above have been a part of the city for years, but sidewalk construction hasn’t been anywhere near a priority for this part of the city.

We decided that having a little one and not moving precluded us from remaining a one car household.  In the two and half years of being a one car household I can only recall a handful of times the bus was critically late, and at a cost of $0.75 per ride (if you buy the ticket book, but only $1 per ride if you pay singly), it is certainly cheaper than gas or parking.  Maybe one day we’ll return to being regular bus riders, but I cannot imagine hauling a stroller and all those baby accoutrements to the bus stop then on the bus then off the bus then all around town then repeat for the return ride.  Then again we never thought we could make do with one car for as long as we did.  Unfortunately, this will be the first Strive Not to Drive that I will not join in the past few years because it coincides with my 38th week of pregnancy.  I can only hope that you might decide to participate.

Rather than subsidize multi national companies that don’t even pay taxes on their billions in annual profits to begin with, we need a New Deal type program that gets the unemployed constructing sidewalks, repairing bridges, and building rail.  Public transit eases congestion, and for those of us that like to go out and knock a few back, it provides a much cheaper alternative to a taxi (which allows us to spend more money knocking a few back and eating a good meal).  Transit jobs cannot be outsourced, and public transit encourages private investment along its corridors much like roads.

Happy Earth Day.

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A Quick One While He’s Away

Posted by eemilla on September 16, 2010

So by the time anyone reads this it will likely be past the deadline (22 September 2010), but here goes.  My favorite cause is to whine about the lack of mass transit and multi modal infrastructure so if you too enjoy doing so (and if you don’t you really should), please take a moment to peruse the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization‘s Long Term Transportation Plan then take the survey.  Come on, at the very least browse the projects then take the survey!

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Governor Perdue has it wrong on mobility.

Posted by eemilla on June 14, 2010

Over a week ago, Governor Perdue spoke in favor of increasing car and light truck registration fees in order to fund highway improvement projects like widening congested road and other transportation projects.  Her emphasis is on expanding highways not reducing private passenger vehicles on the existing roads by increasing public transit, and frankly I am angry.  I don’t mind the proposed five dollar increase on my vehicle registration; I do mind public transit following widening roads as the goal of the mobility fund.  Many studies support her remarks about congestion crippling business and productivity, but many studies also support that widening and building new roads is a short term fix.

Please yell it from the roof tops that this is poor, short-sighted, backwards thinking policy.  Please, Governor Perdue, get on the bus (or better yet, the high speed rail connecting Asheville with Charlotte)!


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What’s in your trash?

Posted by eemilla on November 24, 2009

This time of year is the perfect time of year to think about how much trash you produce considering most Americans are gearing up for their annual end of year spend and waste orgy.  The Change the World Challenge from Reduce Footprints this week asked to keep your trash in site; rather than carry the bag around with me I dutifully logged my trash for the week.  Although I ate out more than I typically do, I ended up using and throwing away items that have simple, reusable alternatives like tissues, napkins, paper towels, and to-go containers.  I’ve finally gotten into the habit of taking cloth bags everywhere so now I just need to remember to bring my own to go containers, napkins, and handkerchiefs.

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How Many Light Bulbs Do You Need?

Posted by eemilla on November 14, 2009

For this week’s Change the World challenge please remove a light bulb from a fixture with multiple bulbs.  For example, in our ceiling fans we have one out of three sockets filled (with compact fluorescents of course).  At work I am fortunate enough to have a south facing window, so on sunny days I don’t use my overhead light.  If you’re up to it, join the challenge and spread the word; for more ideas check out the honor roll.

 

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