| Eco-Gadgets & Innovations |
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
An early adopter shares his experience with the new Nissan Leaf
In response to a piece in our last newsletter about electric vehicles, we heard from reader Christy Wilhelmi, who, along with her husband Andrew Cheeseman, had just taken delivery of their brand new Nissan Leaf. In her words, "It's the coolest thing ever!" Curious to know more, I asked if she'd care to be interviewed for this newsletter. She suggested I talk with Andrew, since "he's the one who's been sitting in the car for hours reading the manual."
Here's what Andrew has to say about his experience with the Leaf so far. When did you take ownership of your new Nissan Leaf?
May 2011Do you use a 110-volt or 220-volt charging system?
220-voltHow long does it take to charge your battery when it is fully depleted?
About six hours with the 220-volt charging system. But it usually takes around 2 or 3 hours. The reality is, I plug it in before dinner and it's charged in the morning, so it really doesn't
matter because by the time I wake up in the morning, it's charged.How hard has it been to find charging stations?
Out of only two times I looked, I found one once (when I went to Orange County, in a mall). The other time, I used a 110-volt regular outlet at my in-laws house, and had plenty of electricity for the rest of the day. It seems to get about 5 miles or so of range for every hour plugged into a 110-volt outlet, and you can plug it into any three-prong outlet. What is your commute like and what kind of range are you getting?
I work from home, visiting clients, going to meetings, and running errands. Most of my trips are under 20 miles each way. I've never gone to empty, but the range seems to be over 110 miles.Has concern about driving range affected the way you drive, ie, do you avoid hills, AC, cell phone charging, etc.?
Yes - for long trips, I take the Prius. Also, I drive more efficiently because of the car's game mechanics. The car provides feedback about your driving - it tells you how many kWh/mile you expend. I can tell you comfortably that I'm getting 4.3kWh/mile. It's a personal challenge to get to 4.4 kWh/mile. Also, in the dashboard, there's a game that grows trees as you drive more efficiently, so you see how trees you can collect in a trip. So the game mechanics create a personal challenge to drive more efficiently. And also because the car itself has this range of 114-ish miles, if I think I might be pushing the limit of that, then I drive more efficiently.
No, I don't avoid using the AC, because the game mechanics show you that the AC is really efficient - it doesn't have much of a drain on the battery. And no, I don't avoid hills. Yes, you do use a lot of electricity going up, but you gain most of it back going down.
The things that drain the battery quickest are hills, fast acceleration (more so than gas cars), and driving really fast. If I think I'm going to be driving to the end of my battery range, I do pay attention to those things.Are you satisfied with the car's acceleration and what is the highest speed you have achieved?
Very satisfied. Better acceleration than many gas cars. I've driven 80-ish miles/hour for short periods.Do you have any complaints about the car?
Some minor ones (navigation, CARWINGS®, materials, accessories) that are offset by the benefits (XM trial, energy, solid construction).
Many in-car navigation systems are kludgy, so I've heard many complaints about in-car navigation systems from different manufacturers and I guess you could add this one to the list. When I'm trying to navigate the small streets above the Hollywood Bowl, it tells me "turn right" where there are clearly two rights. You look at the map and it's not clear, and it'll have me driving in circles. The Google navigation on my Android phone is better, and that's what I rely on when things get hairy and complicated.
CARWINGS® is the car's telematics system which communicates information about the car (and helps you locate charging stations). It needs a rewrite - too many button pushes per simple thing that you want to do.
In general, the car is pretty nice. With the materials, I'd love to see a notch up. For example, there are a couple bolts that aren't covered (under the seats), and I just wonder why not? As for accessories, there's this little cargo basket in the back, and it's only six inches long. What can you put in there? Also, there's no hook in the car for clothes.
At the same time, there are drink holders in the front and the back. And there are some extras too, such as an XM radio trial for 3 months, which is fun. And the navigation system came standard on my car. Do you have any words of caution for prospective Leaf owners?
Don't wait too long before getting this car, as the overall price is likely to increase.All things considered, including sticker price, would you recommend this car to a friend?
Yes, and I have.
To test drive a Nissan Leaf yourself (along with several other electric and alt fuel vehicles), be sure to attend the 6th Annual AltCar Expo at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium next Friday and Saturday, Sept 30 and Oct 1, from 10am - 5pm. Admission is free. For more information, visit altcarexpo.com/index.html
|LIVE GREEN: Climate|
Meat = Heat
Climate Impacts of a Carnivorous Diet
Where the environment is concerned, it's not hard to find reasons to eat less meat: the land area devoted to livestock grazing (35% according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture), the heavy use of water (2,463 gallons per pound of beef according to the Water Education Foundation), and the water pollution caused by the roughly 10 billion animals that are processed in the United States every year.
The reason that meat takes such a heavy toll on the environment is that it is inherently inefficient to produce; especially in the case of beef, it takes a lot of grain to produce a pound of meat. In addition to the aformentioned heavy use of land and water required to produce meat, this inherent inefficiency means that when compared to other foods, it requires much more energy to produce as well. More energy means more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which are of course the culprit behind global climate change.
A new report released in July by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) spotlights the connection between meat consumption and climate change. The report, titled "Meat Eater's Guide to Climate Change and Health," details the results of a lifecycle analysis of the GHG emissions generated by 20 common foods, field to fork. Greenhouse gas emissions for everything from manufacturing pesticide and fertilizer to cow farts to cooking and disposal of unused food were included.
As the chart clearly shows, meat and cheese have considerably larger carbon footprints than vegetable protein. Surprisingly, lamb has the highest emissions, largely due to the fact that you can only get so much meat off those little chops. But because lamb represents just one percent of the meat consumed by Americans, it contributes very little to overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Far more important is the #2 offender: beef. According to the report, about 30 percent of the meat consumed in America is beef, and its emissions are twice that of pork, nearly four times that of chicken and more than 13 times that of vegetable proteins such as beans, lentils and tofu. Cheese comes in at #3, but EWG points out that since most people don't usually sit down to a 4-oz serving of cheese like they do with beef and pork, it's not as much of a concern.
Based on the report's findings, one of EWG's recommendations is to eat meat, eggs and dairy products that are "certified organic, humane and/or grass-fed." These are all great suggestions, of course. But there's just one problem: at the rate we're currently consuming meat, there's simply not enough land for us all to make the switch to grass-fed beef.
As it is, the vast majority of cattle is raised mostly or entirely in feedlots, where a cow can reach market weight after just 150 - 160 days. Forgo the feedlot and raise a cow entirely on its natural diet of grass, and you're looking at several years before it reaches market weight. We have already set aside 35% of US land area for grazing livestock. There's just not enough land for all those feedlot cows to be sent out to pasture.
The answer (for our health, our climate and the well-being of the animals that nourish us) is to start treating beef as a luxury, to be eaten perhaps once or twice a month. Then we could all enjoy grass-fed beef all the time, in a cooler, more humane world.
To read the full report, visit http://breakingnews.ewg.org.
A Yummy Vegetarian Recipe for Autumn
After reading the piece above about the climate impacts of meat consumption, you may (hopefully) be thinking about cooking more vegetarian meals. In an effort to help you do just that, I will now be including a delicious seasonal vegetarian recipe in every newsletter.
My search for great recipes began with trained chef and former Manhattan restaurant owner, Maria Merwin (who also happens to be my sister-in-law). Maria recommended I peruse coconutandquinoa.wordpress.com, the vegetarian blog of her former colleague Amy Chaplin. A lifelong vegetarian originally from Australia, Amy has an impressive bio that includes a stint as executive chef of Manhattan's Angelica Kitchen.
Through her blog, Amy shares original seasonal recipes and health tips. The recipe below was hand-picked by Maria as a delicious, relatively simple dish perfect for a cool autumn day.
Roast Squash, Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tart
November 1, 2009 by coconutandquinoa
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or whole spelt flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or melted butter ( I used a combination)
2-3 tablespoons soymilk or filtered water (milk would also be fine)
2 large red onions, sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 large butternut or red kuri squash, 2 1/2 to 3 pounds, peeled and seeded
fresh black pepper
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed
1/4 pound fresh goat cheese
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees farenheit.
Pulse oats in a food processor until coarsely ground, place in a bowl with flour, salt and baking powder, mix well. Melt butter (if using) in a small sauce pan over medium heat, add olive oil and brush a little into a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom, pour the rest into oat-flour mixture. Mix with a folk until all the butter and oil is combined, drizzle in soy milk (or water) and mix until pastry holds together, it shouldn't be too wet. Press crust into tart pan and pre-bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven and set aside.
Place onions and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a wide skillet or frying pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring every few minutes until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Lower heat to medium-low and cook until caramalized, this takes a good 30 minutes, if they begin to stick turn heat down a little. Stir in a large pinch of sea salt and the balsamic vinegar, cook another few minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Raise oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Cut squash into 3/4 inches chunks, spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drizzle with remaining olive oil, a large pinch of sea salt and pepper, toss well. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown, remove from oven and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl combine caramelized onions, roasted squash and thyme leaves.
Crumble half of the goat cheese into the bowl and gently toss. Crumble remaining goat cheese over the bottom of the pre-baked tart shell, top with squash mixture and return to oven for another 20 minutes until goat cheese is golden and slightly melted. Allow to cool before serving.
Visit coconutandquinoa.wordpress.com for more pictures, user comments and Amy's notes about this recipe.
Reduce, REUSE, Recycle
A Hot Tip for Composters
A free, easy, green, bug-free way to store food scraps headed for the compost bin
When I first started composting, I quickly realized that unless I wanted to make the trip downstairs to the compost bin after every meal, I would need to store our food scraps in the kitchen. A quick search on Amazon.com revealed that there is no shortage of kitchen compost pails to choose from: everything from stainless steel to a ceramic pail shaped like a head of lettuce. Cute, but $27 was more than I wanted to spend on a compost pail. So I settled on a 1-gallon ceramic pail that set me back $20.
I used that thing for several months, putting up with the gnats and odor, until one day, a blessing in disguise: my $20 ceramic compost pail met its demise on the garage floor. My experience with this pail made me wonder if there might be a better way.
It came to me in the produce aisle: salad greens. What better way to store your kitchen compostables than in a salad greens tub you can buy in any grocery store? With a quick rinse after each trip to the compost bin, these tubs, which come in at least two sizes, can be reused many times.
But what about the gnats and odor, you ask? Simple! Your bug and odor problems will be virtually eliminated by storing your tub in the refrigerator. Not only that, refrigeration will delay molding, so during particularly lazy or busy times, your food scraps can be stored for several days without too much spoilage.
Truly, switching from a counter top pail to a refrigerated salad tub has completely changed my composting experience. It's easier, cheaper, greener, and keeps my kitchen bug- and odor-free.
So save your money, eat your greens and start putting that tub to good use.
| Duty Calls |
Moving Planet - TOMORROW!!!
September 24, 2011
Environmental activist Bill McKibben is not giving up on his mission to prevent a global climate catastrophe. On September 24, McKibben will be joined by thousands of people all over the world to demand that we finally move beyond fossil fuels. In McKibben's words, "By days' end, we'll have shown why the bicycle is more glamorous than the car, and why the people have the potential to be more powerful than the polluters."
Moving Planet events are scheduled to take place all over the world. To find one near you, visit www.moving-planet.org/map. If there are no events scheduled in your area, consider recruiting some friends and organizing one yourself. Registering an event is simple, and when you do, your event will go on the Moving Planet map so that others in your community can find you and join you in walking, biking, skating or otherwise taking a stand for conservation and clean, renewable energy.
Be part of the action. Sign up at www.moving-planet.org.
|Support TeachingGreen's Growing Up Green Program|
Growing Up Green
The Early Years: Grades K - 5
It's a new school year, and TeachingGreen is back with our friends Flat Stanley and Flat Sue to teach the kids of Los Angeles all about that cardinal rule of sustainability: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Through the experiences of Flat Stanley and Flat Sue, children are encouraged to think about the impact that their day-to-day lives have on the environment and are empowered with simple steps that they can take to reduce this impact. The result is engaging environmental education to help our children become thoughtful, responsible consumers.
Last Spring, in honor of Earth Day, nearly 1,800 elementary students enjoyed one or more of our Growing Up Green presentations. Earth Day 2012 is still months away, but we must not delay teaching our kids how to protect the environment that is so crucial to their health and well being.
In order to maintain the program and ensure that students continue to benefit from it, we are going to need all the support we can get. Please help in any way you can!
Three ways to support the Growing Up Green Program:
1. Spread the word
Based on our experience last spring, we strongly believe that if teachers know about Growing Up Green, they will invite us to their schools to share the program with their students. If you know any teachers, principals or other school personnel in the Los Angeles area, please tell them about this great program!
Send them to www.teachinggreen.org/schedule_kid_pres.html for a complete program description and an online presentation request form.
2. Donate and become a member of TeachingGreen
In a perfect world, teachers would have all the money they need to pay for enrichment programs like Growing Up Green. But with today's budgetary constraints, schools are having a hard enough time paying their employees, let alone outside experts.
Your donation will help ensure that we can continue to offer this program free-of-charge to schools that have no budget to pay the $50/visit fee. We are a 501(c)3 organization, so all donations are fully tax-deductible.
To make a tax-deductible donation to TeachingGreen, click here.
3. Volunteer or intern with TeachingGreenWe are seeking interns and volunteers to help us improve, build on and expand the Growing Up Green program. Specifically, we need assistance in these areas:
- curriculum development
- conducting classroom presentations and assemblies
- fund raising
Help us create demand, and then meet that demand, with powerful lessons of sustainability for tomorrow's consumers and voters.
Sign up today!
On behalf of Planet Earth and the school children of Los Angeles, we thank you for your support!