I read something recently that said if you raise your thermostat by two degrees in the summer, and lower it by two degrees in the winter, you can reduce your annual carbon footprint by 2,000 lbs and save about 100 bucks on your electric bill. Well, simple enough — so we tried it for the month of June. It wasn’t uncomfortable. We vary it slightly by cranking the AC just before we go to bed (to get the house cooler) and then turning it all the way off, and I don’t turn it on again the next day until the temperature inside the house hits about 78, which some days is 10 a.m., and some days is around noon.   I also reset it to about 83 when I leave for work around 2, so it’s considerably higher between then and when my sig. oth. gets home around 6.

We made no other big changes in our power consumption that month. Our electric  bill shows a “same month last year” comparison of kWh used, so when the bill arrived the first week of July, I took a look.

We used 1/3 — ONE THIRD — fewer kilowatt hours this June than last, just by doing that one thing.  Try it!

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Check out this link:   Hardware by Renee. This woman makes purses out of recycled tires. I don’t even carry a purse and I totally want one. In fact, I already bought two as gifts for others. Give it a look!

This is a follow-up to my previous post about the actual cost of a candy bar. I decided to try to find out what the candy folks were lobbying for, just to see where my money is going.

Here’s just one example. In 2005, California was considering a law that would require candy manufacturers importing candy from Mexico to both test for and eliminate lead in their candy and candy wrappers. You read that right — lead. I’d had no idea this was a problem.

The candy lobby — the National Confectioners Association — lobbied against it. Yep, you read THAT right too — the candy manufacturers who sell candy to children wanted to win the right to continue FEEDING THEM LEAD.

So, you say, well, who cares about candy from MEXICO, because I eat Hershey and M&Ms. Well, guess what? Once the sugar subsidy in this country got too ridiculous, American candymakers started outsourcing to — you guessed it — Mexico. Including Hershey and M&M Mars, both of whom have facilities there.

Now, the law in California passed, despite the candy lobby’s efforts. But — that’s California. Who knows what they’re feeding us elsewhere? That’s bad — but to me, the worse thing is that given something that should be a moral imperative — we’re talking about a known poison being given to an audience that consists largely of children — the candy lobby picked the wrong side. And used my money to fund it.

Rather puts a hole in the idea of candy as comfort food for me!

Marketing Coolness

July 14, 2007

I watched Frontline’s “The Merchants of Cool” this week and in some ways it was chilling. It was about the lengths to which corporate America goes to market to the huge group that is the American teenager. The amount of money that group has to spend is staggering, and the amount it talks others (read “parents”) into spending is likewise staggering.

So these companies have to figure out what is going to be cool next and how to market it. Enter the mook and the midriff. The mook is male, and feel free to think of some of the gross and humiliating things you see young males do in movies these days — those are mooks. The guy diving into the sewer for fun or shoving beans up his nose or — like Eric Cartman, making his friends eat their own dead parents unbeknownst to them — those are mooks. Midriffs — well, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton (people South Park refers to as stupid spoiled whores) personify this.

It was fascinating, to say the least.

But the question that is most compelling to me and one which it can’t yet answer is “what kind of consumers are these kids going to be 20 years from now?” Will they still be spoiled and rushing off to buy every “latest new thing” whether they need it or not? Will they still be susceptible to marketing, or will thought have intruded into the process? Will they be the brainwashed automatons the corporations would like them to be, or will they be responsible citizens of Earth?

You ever notice how sometimes several things you are reading or watching seem to coalesce? I’m also reading a book called “The High Price of Materialism” by Tim Kasser. Among his findings: people who focus heavily on materialism are less happy, less fulfilled, and more likely to participate in anti-social or unhealthy behaviors. Not surprising, because most of us have heard ideas to that effect. But Kasser actually did studies to find out if that widely-held impression was just that, or if it had validity. It’s valid.

So another compelling question is this: Are we as a society, with the help of corporate America, deliberately raising a generation of people who will be unhappier, more likely to be anti-social or engage in unhealthy behaviors, and unable to fight their way out of it because the only tool they’ve been given for coping is to acquire more and more of what they don’t really need?

I just watched “Who Killed the Electric Car?” (which I recommend), which is about the efforts of GM to kill demand for and sales of its own electric cars in California. You read that right.

Here’s the thing I don’t understand — which leads to the title of this piece. Clearly, the oil industry has an interest in eliminating electric cars. No surprise there, and if the conclusions drawn in this documentary had been that Big Oil was the ringleader in shutting down the electric car, you and I would not be having this conversation. But the ringleader was not, apparently, big oil — it was the automobile industry itself.

Oil, as should be painfully obvious to everyone over the age of three, is finite, and de facto, running out — albeit not immediately. So it’s in the automobile industry’s best interests to get cars out there that don’t rely on oil, so that regardless of what happens to the oil industry, the automobile industry can survive. You would think this would be obvious, also, but if actions speak louder than words, this salient point has escaped the notice of the bigwigs at GM.

The documentarians did point out that with the electric car, the automobile industry loses a ton of after-market repair and parts money. I suspect this is nothing compared to what they will lose when the oil runs out, unless they’ve gotten off their dead asses and retooled — this time without shooting themselves in the foot afterward.

Oh, and postscript — Bush & Co. waste a lot of breath talking about “free market” this and “market forces” that — usually when justifying doing nothing about the healthcare system. But in “Who Killed the Electric Car,” it was not only the industrial giants in the oil and automotive arenas who were working to shut progress down — the feds got in on it too.

In a truly free market system, all products can be introduced and they stand or fall based on their own merits — hence, “free market” and “market forces.” I guess the Bush Administration’s definitions of these two phrases include the words “unless we need to legally shape the market to impress our friends.”