Friday, May 20, 2011

Summer Begins!

I won't say where, but I will say what. For most of the year, I teach college classes as an Adjunct professor. In English Literature, if I can manage it. What this means is that I'm totally old school. I love sitting down with books (I never intend to own a Kindle, no matter how eco-friendly, thank you!) and a stack of papers and a red pen. One of my favorite times of the school year is the end of a semester/quarter- you know, the same time of year students enjoy. In the few weeks leading up, I imagine all the joy I'll experience when I'm free... and the pile of papers that will be tossed in the recycling bin.

Back in high school, I'd save up all of my school papers and burn them all at the end of the year. While this was very fulfilling, as who doesn't like a big fire?- it wasn't very green. Now that my attention has gone more and more to being concious of the planet, I start daydreaming about just tossing a huge pile of papers into the recycling bin.

Like I said, I'm old school. I like making students turn in hard copies of their homework. I find it easier to focus when I'm sitting at a desk with a pen, instead of sitting at my computer where I can pull up various other windows. This year, between assignments from students who stopped coming to class, my planning notes, and final essays (those that didn't email them to me- see, I did make that allowance for the last essay!) I had a stack of papers probably three inches thick that I tossed in the box.

Well, naturally this led me to wonder what I could to to reduce that. Originally, when I started teaching, I had easy access to printers and copiers, so I handed out a lot more pages than I do now. These days, I post all documents and links to the class website and pull them up on the computer for class- a reduction in paper waste there. I turn off computers and lights when I leave the classroom. I write on both sides of all notepapers that I make plans on before recycling. I tear apart and recycle every part of the notepads I use up. I try hard to make things as green as possible.

Now I just need to force myself to use the computer for all assignments, and I'm thinking I just might. I don't see any way to completely eliminate paper waste from my classes- I'll at least need to have pop quizzes and in-class writing assignments, and working in a computer lab, well, not usually the best environment for having students pay attention, but I can try every semester to have a smaller pile by the end of it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Happy being green?

I ran across this article and don't completely agree with what it is saying.

The article basically states people who go green, by doing things like eating organic food, biking or walking places, turning off lights when leaving the room were overall happier than those who did not.  My first thought is – hey cool! I then step back, remember my college   – high school education  common sense.Correlation does not equal causality.  Just because action a and action b are related does not mean that action a is the reason for action b.

Ok great people who are environmentally conscious in studies appear to be happier than those who aren’t.  Could it be that they also have a different outlook on life to begin with?  Or sure some of those things can raise your happiness level.  Eating healthy and exercising are good things for your body and your body will respond in kind – with more energy.  So in this case it’s taking care of yourself that makes you happy, not going ‘green’.

Also how does one measure happiness?

I in no way mean to discourage doing things environmentally friendly, but I do balk at the idea that going green in and of itself will make you happy. I mean listen to Kermit.  It’s not easy being green ;)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pests, where do you draw the line? – Carpenter Bees

If the ants weren’t aggravating enough, we’ve got another annoyance on our hands.   As the weather warms up, the urge to get up, get out, and enjoy my backyard grows.  One small issue – or not so small as these are the BIGGEST bees I’ve ever seen.
From what I’ve read, they aren’t anything more than a pest.  The females rarely sting and the males can’t.  Sure, they will eat the wood of things, but they don’t eat enough or quickly enough for there to be real structural damage.  
My husband however,  is NOT a fan of bees.  If one of these guys comes too close or he sees too many of them, he will retreat back inside and I’m left to grab dinner off the grill.  I grew up with apple trees in the back yard and no discernable fear of bees. I will grant, however, that my husband has the right be unnerved.  These  guys are scary.    They are large and the males are territorial, and will buzz around you in strafing runs, hovering a few feet away from you buzzing angrily.   One is bad enough, but I’ve had days where I’ve been out there where there are 2 or 3 around the deck at a time. 

I’m stubborn.  It’s my deck, my home, and they are NOT conscientious tenants.  It had gotten bad enough that I felt in danger of being pushed off my own turf and surrendering the deck to them.  Wait. . what? Surrender.  Never.   
Monday I had a lack of patience and implemented a fix.  As I didn’t have any putty at the time, I used what I did have.  I grabbed the cement mix and started plugging holes.  Once they are plugged in they aren’t supposed to be able to get out!  Wonderful right?
Well I did this right as I got home from work on Monday night.  It was still sunny—what I ended up doing was locking them out of their homes. They were not happy.    Robyn was over that night, we armed ourselves with  spray bottles and a broom.  The bees were going down.
I know the bees just wanted to get home, I know they technically weren’t harming us.  This was an ingrained, instinctual battle for territory.  It was an epic battle, they fought valiantly, we got about 5 of them through the hour or so that came after.   This however wasn’t enough.  I work from home some days, and went to enjoy the deck only to have 3 of these resilient fellows buzzing around throughout the day. 
While out last night I picked up some outdoor putty.  I waited for it to be dark and went and plugged the new holes and the ones I’d missed the day before.  

I don’t think this is over, and I don’t know who will break first.  Will they be trapped inside and will I have gotten them all?  Or will I break and go nope, no more environmentalist give me the Raid and/or call the exterminator.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pests, where do you draw the line? -- Ants

I keep trying to become more conscious, friendlier in my dealings with nature through activities.  There are challenges, and always the question of which is the better fit for the issue occurring.  Recently we’ve had a couple of issues around the house. 
These little buggers are tenacious.  I’m at war with them, territory keeps going back and forth.  About a year ago we came home from a weekend vacation to a full out invasion in the kitchen.  Ants don’t scare me. Growing up I was used to them coming in under the kitchen sink,  randomly –yes, but they never got any further than under the sink.  They were localized, and that was fine – well except the one time they went further and got into the Microwave. . .
They were EVERYWHERE  no central spot, not in an enclosure. They were by the cat food dishes, they were across the room in the dishwasher, they had claimed the counters and were hiding behind the stove.  Not any of these locations were adjoining.   I freaked out, went on a complete cleaning spree.
They came back.  In a way, that was ok,  we found where they were coming in – right next to where the cat food dishes were.  Not a place where we could put a conventional ant trap (cat could get right at it), and for the way the deck and sunroom were added to the house, the ants were already inside where we could put outside perimeter items.
I did some research.  I wanted a way to stop the ants w/o putting harsh chemicals and items that said ‘keep away from children’ right where my *very* curious cat could reach.   Various things stop ants in their tracks,  or at the very least make it hard for them to follow their scouts.  The scouts create a trail for others to follow by scent. Thus anything strong smelling will mess with them and make it a very difficult way for them to go.  Things like Sage and Baby/Talcum powder were recommended.  After a trek out to the grocery store,  I attacked with the talcum powder – possibly over doing it just a mite. 
They stayed away.  They were gone.  Or so I thought.
A little over a year later they were back.   Not so large in number, but they were back.  I swept them up, put them outside, and started looking for where they were coming in.  It wasn’t where they were before that was for sure.    This time it was the door and the window to the deck.  On two different occasions, my husband and I applied the baby powder, even on the wall, and outside the door.
And then there were . . . less.  For a while.   They aren’t coming from the door, at least not in any numbers, but they were once again all over my counters earlier this week.  Sunday night we did a complete clean.  Since then I’ve seen a few. Not in any real numbers – one on the sink, one here or there on a counter.  Just enough to remind me they are still there – somewhere. . .

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Reason Not to Smoke

Okay, so the smoking/not smoking debate isn't usually an issue at the forefront of the whole green mentality. The general viewpoint seems to be that smoking is bad for your health, and people that care about the environment usually also care about themselves, so they don't do it. Easy enough.

Additionally, smoking causes air pollution (contained, perhaps, but it does ruin air quality in an area where there are a lot of smokers) and the cigarette butts tend to end up on the ground as often as in landfills, neither of which is eco-friendly.

But I have to say- smoking has another side effect that I hadn't been aware of until I started getting essays from my students this semester- if you smoke in your house, and print your essay on paper from your house, your essay will reek of smoke. It's absoutely horrid and makes me feel as if the paper has been polluted. I feel bad for those that will end up coming across it during the recycling process.