The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
July 9, 2008

Help! I’m on the Low Carbon Diet and I need some advice.

So a few weeks ago, I started to write about how I and a couple of guys from Green Sangha had begun the Low Carbon Diet challenge (as if we all need one more freakin’ challenge right now!) but I was tired and feeling fluey and never finished the post.

Well, I’m back on it. But I’m stuck. The guys and I pretty much flew through Section 1, patting ourselves on the back for having done almost everything on the list already:

1) Reducing garbage — I have next to none.
2) Turning down hot water heater and using less hot water. Check.
3) Reducing dish washing water. Check.
4) Washing and drying clothes efficiently. This needs work. We do wash everything in cold water. And we can’t afford to buy new appliances right now. But I have been remiss about looking into drying racks or clotheslines. Mainly cuz I just don’t want to. (Don’t be mad, Burbanmom.)
5) Turning down the thermostat, and getting a programmable one. Check.
6) Dealing with electricity vampires. Check. We use Smart Strips.
7) Turning the temp up on the A/C. Check. (We don’t have one!)
8) Reducing vehicle miles. Check. (We don’t have a vehicle!)
9) Driving efficiently. Check. (See number 8)
10) Eating low on the food chain. I pledged to have one vegan day per week. So far, I have not remembered to actually do this one. I don’t eat a lot of meat. But I keep forgetting and putting milk in my coffee (or now, tea) or using butter or mayo or what have you.

All in all, Section 1 was not too bad. But a few days ago, I started on Section 2. And I have issues. Section 2 is all about making your home more energy efficient. As renters, there are only so many things we can or are willing to do. But also as someone trying to reduce my plastic consumption, a few of these steps are challenging.

That’s where you come in. Can you help?

1) Where can I find an effective door sweep that is not made from vinyl? Vinyl (aka PVC) is one of the most toxic plastics, and I simply don’t want it in my home. I can’t avoid vinyl-covered electrical cords. But I am hoping to avoid other types of vinyl. I saw this aluminum and felt door sweep. Before I order this thing that will inevitably come wrapped in plastic, does anyone know about this kind? Does it work? Do you have a better idea?

Please don’t suggest a traditional draft dodger. Burbanmom was kind enough to sew one for me this past winter, and the cats destroyed it within weeks. Plus, the problem with draft dodgers is that you have to keep moving them back into place. And how can you put it back in place when you’re leaving the house? I have seen somewhere a way to make a draft dodger attach to the door, but once again, it had better be made out of really sturdy stuff or the cats will take it apart.

2) Window and door weatherstripping. This is a mystery to me. It seems there is some felt weatherstripping in some of our windows and door cracks already, but how can I tell if it’s still good or needs replacing? I don’t want to use vinyl foam, for reasons already stated, or any other plastic if I can avoid it. But the metal weather stripping seems to be hella expensive, and we have a lot of windows. Plus, we are renters! Yeah, maybe the landlord would go in on it, but then again, probably not.

And why does weatherstripping only come in 17′ lengths? I’d need way more than that to do all my windows and outside doors, and each 17′ roll comes in its own plastic bag. Why can’t I buy a bigger roll? And what is the most effective and also least plastic type to get? Suggestions?

3) Outlet insulators. Necessary? I’d never heard of them until reading this chapter.

4) Furnace tune up. Have you heard of this? Have you done it? Once again, as I proved in my post about Ducts, I’m kinda clueless in the ways of houses and their heating systems. Anyone in the Bay Area have a good heating company to recommend to tune up our furnace? (It’s a gas furnace in the attic, if you didn’t read or don’t remember the Duct adventure.) Also, apparently, we need to insulate those same ducts. How did I ever make it this far without knowing these basic facts of life?

Chime in please. This may be my last post for the week, as I’ve got a lot to do to prepare for the Send Off Ceremony this Saturday, another step towards the upcoming vision fast on July 21. I’ve given up quite a few things that were weighing me down, and discovered a few more tonight in our group meeting.

Doing without my psychological and emotional crutches hasn’t been as agonizing as I thought it would be because crying is still allowed. And what I mean is that crying is a great way to release pent up emotion and frustration without resorting to substances or other distractions. And you feel great afterwards, if maybe a little headachy. I highly recommend it.

So along with your home weatherization tips, how about a few good crying stories? That’ll make us all happy!

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26 Comments on "Help! I’m on the Low Carbon Diet and I need some advice."

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7 years 4 months ago

Crying — I bawl any time I have to get a card for anyone. Seriously, even the funny ones make me cry. I make my own now — partly for environmental reasons, and partly because I’m tired of being a drippy mess in the card store. It’s so embarrassing. Huge things can happen and I’ll keep the tears in. But the little things always get me.

Furnace — I have a friend who owns an appliance parts store. She says furnace tuneups are kind of a rip. If you can clean the filter yourself,… Read more »

Amy K.
7 years 4 months ago

A small comment on “Washing and drying clothes efficiently” – making sure things are actually dirty when you wash them, not just worn. I have a drawer of my dresser dedicated to clothes worn once or twice around the office, that are presentable enough to wear again. If I wear everything twice, rather than washing it after one use, I only do half as much laundry!

7 years 4 months ago

Here’s something I just read by Kathy McMahon that makes sense:

“A Formula for Hopelessness

Hopelessness may be more common in people who are required to change a major portion of the way they are living, and less common in those that have already made (or didn’t need to make) huge life transitions. Here’s a formula I’m playing with:

Hopelessness = Uncertainty + A Belief in the Need for Overwhelming Lifestyle Shifts + No Social Supports

If you live on a thriving farm in an area with a huge group of active PO community members with lots of practical skills,… Read more »

7 years 4 months ago

I have a question for the brain trust here:
where do you personally draw the “carbon line?”
is trucked in from 600 miles away vegan subs better in your eyes that the local dairy?

I have been dealing with this aspect of veganism for many years (and it’s why I can’t truly call myself one).
I’m always trying to find a balance between critters and planet.
So far, I say I have imperfect answers.
for example: I have non biodegradable shoes (Chacos, all bought before they moved to China) I justify this with maintaining them to the best of my ability.
I will be very… Read more »

7 years 4 months ago

If you have old single panes, you can EASILY make them MORE efficient than new vinyl (PLASTIC) windows by adding a storm window. You can find cast off storms (wood) for cheap a lot of times… they require a simple hook at the top of each window, and a latch at the bottom, and you can get outside OR inside storms.

MOre useful knowledge brought to you by old house people! It’s a myth that replacing good old wood windows is more energy efficient, and I’d like to spread the truth!

7 years 4 months ago

Door sweeps – felt? Make your own!

Some metal like attached-to-the-wall bookshelving and DIY closet organizer kits come w/…superglue…and felt.


Only thing is, you’ll have to find a buddy with a “saws all”–and a “metal blade” attachment.

Not hard to cut the metal to size if someone has that tool. It’s a power tool–a hand saw. I held the metal steady with two hands while my boyfriend handled the saw.

7 years 4 months ago

Wow, I read all of the comments and there isn’t even ONE crying story as suggested!

So here’s one. If I concentrate hard on the thought that Fake Plastic Fish suddenly disappears from the Net, I get the feeling that if I were to continue to do so, tears would gather in my eyes. But, I guess this is only a potential crying story?

I have been following your advice on writing to companies about their over-use/un-necessary use of plastic. No replies. Could it be the profanity is off-putting? Beth, maybe you should compose a polite “form letter for the rest of… Read more »

7 years 4 months ago

Hi Beth!
I’m sorry I didn’t read the 4th of July post the day you posted it, but I still want you to know that I admire that you were able to open your heart like you did, and showing it to the world.
Like other readers, I completely relate to what you wrote and hope someday I will be able to embrace my freedom. I really really think you can.
I have no cool suggestions about doorsweeps but I can give you a nice crying story:
Today I was in Biochemstry class (I’m a Biology student in Argentina)and the professors brought a 3… Read more »

7 years 4 months ago

Good heavens, instead of creating impossible hurdles, let’s encourage everyone to do what they can…80% of the benefit from 20% of the effort. Instead of making people feel as though they are slackers for ocassionally using a plastic bag, let’s encourage them to change one or two light bulbs to CFLs. If everyone did a tiny bit, it would have a much larger impact then a handful of zealots doing it all. Don’t allow the perfect be the enemy of the good enough.

7 years 4 months ago

In regards to the foam…there is supposed to be a foam made of 100% enviromentally friendly products like vegetable bases (corn) I did a quick search and this is what I found

knutty knitter
7 years 4 months ago

We just used a few screws in the fabric draft stop to attach them to the door. We did make them extra strong because of chainsaw and skillsaw (the cats that own us) but they have been fine.

viv in nz

Fake Plastic Fish
7 years 4 months ago

Thanks for the advice so far! Some additional things I forgot to mention in my post:

1) Since I live in the Bay Area where we don’t actually have much in the way of actual seasons, it’s never cold enough to putty the windows closed for the winter. All winter long, there are days when it’s nice to open the windows to let in some fresh air. The really, really cold days (and for us, those days are still above freezing) only last for a few weeks. So while it gets cold enough to feel uncomfortable… Read more »

7 years 4 months ago

BOURBAN MOMMIE already answered everything- LOL

7 years 4 months ago

Re: floor sweep. Depends if you have carpet, but if you don’t I’d suggest an old fashioned broom, made from twig and wood. That’s what we used on our wood floors in the last house we owned, and it worked a treat.

If you have carpets (built-in), ask a neighbour if you can share theirs. It’s only something you use once a week anyway. Offer something of yours in return to be shared. And for rugs, an old fashioned bent wood carpet beater can’t be beat (pardon the pun!).

Door weatherstripping: you know those wheat bags people use in beds to keep… Read more »

7 years 4 months ago

Hudson coffee has hemp milk and often rice milk – avoid the soy milk like the plague… it’s just not good for you. :)

Back to tying up tomatoes…

Village Green
7 years 4 months ago

Hi Beth,

I just came in from hanging up a load of laundry. It’s a glorious sunny day in Akron and it feels good to carry a basket outside and reach down for clothes then stretch up to pin them on the line. I never think of it as a chore, but as something that feels good and right to do.

Yes, soymilk in the coffee is good and veganism is not so hard these days. Here’s a trick I just learned, you can replace the egg in your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe by using a mashed up over… Read more »

Lisa Sharp
7 years 4 months ago

I understand your problems, we are living with the in-laws right now (they are not eco freaks like me) and so we can’t do a lot of the things we want thought when helping them replace things we have talked them in to more eco things. I don’t know how you live without plastic, I wish so badly I could but I don’t now how I could get by so I buy plastics that can be recycled, or better yet recycled plastic and I do try and pick glass if I can.

Also I have an eco-friendly giveaway right now.… Read more »

Amy K.
7 years 4 months ago

A thought on the door sweep vs. Draft Dodger: Maybe Burbanmom or other thoughtful party could make one like this that has thick insulation on btoh sides, and stays with the door so you don’t have to think about what happens when you leave the house?

I have carpet in my entryway, so I doubt it would glide enough, but I think they’re a neat option.

7 years 4 months ago

Beth, how much energy are you using in the winter? Because I know you live in the Bay Area, and having lived there for 18 years, I also know it doesn’t get THAT cold. So if you are leaving your thermostat low-ish (like 65)then maybe that’s enough?

I mean maybe not, but how much energy does it take to produce all these things? And how much energy would you be saving? And how much of a headache is this causing you?

I say, if your electricity bills are still pretty low, even in winter, and if you are using green energy, and… Read more »

7 years 4 months ago

1. Could you just make one? A thin 3″ x 36″- 1/4″ plywood strip… then staple and glue very thick wool felt to the bottom. YOu could probably salvage all the materials, too, and if you don’t have a saw or access to one, home despot and similar will make 2 free cuts on any boardyou buy AND they have a scrapbin full of other’scastoffs for CHEAP that might be the right size.

#2 Coming from an old house afficianado… the best weatherstripping you can buy is old fashioned bronze, stainless steel, or copper v-stripping… it works better… Read more »

7 years 4 months ago

And some more advice:
1. Doorsweep — I’m still working on this myself. And while I know this won’t be a problem with you, avoid any sweep with plastic bristles, the bristles break off with time and wow, do those things float around and last in the environment. I finally figured out that the weird 2″ pieces of plastic that I’m picking out of my compost are pushbroom bristles.
2. Weather stripping — while it may qualify as plastic but probably not PVC,there are products that are designed to be removed at the end of the season. I’d… Read more »

7 years 4 months ago

Hi, Beth — We have a doorsweep that is constructed as follows: a wooden strip with a groove in it is nailed to the bottom of the door, and a metal strip with brush-bristles along it slides into the groove. (I know, the bristles are plastic…but maybe if you or Terrible Person is a little handy you could make something similar with a piece of fabric or something attached to the metal strip instead of bristles.) We’re renters, too, so I don’t know where this came from, unfortunately.

7 years 4 months ago

We put our draft dodger in between the screen door and the door, that way it solves the “what do we do to seal it when we’re gone” issue.

But I know not all rentals have screen doors.

Good luck! We feel your rental un-control. I’m in a fight with the landlord at the moment to put curtains up to help with the leaky windows.

7 years 4 months ago

Beth, we’ve done most of these. I can tell you that the outlet insulators do help with draftyness in the house, and I highly recomend them. They are very cheap and easy to install. Furnace tune-ups are a must. I would think your landlord would pay, but, whether he does or not, it’s good to have it done annually, for both efficiency and safety. If you don’t want to go to a lot of expense with weather stripping, once it gets cold you can run a bead of roll putty around the windows you won’t… Read more »

Anarres Natural Health
7 years 4 months ago

Great advice from burbanmom!

But put soymilk in your coffee!!! It’s delicious foamed up, too.

You can make outlet insulators from similar foams such as packaging sheets found in the trash.

As renters, you should ask for the landlord to pay for furnace maintenance. Insulation the duct work? Wow! That’s a big leap as a retrofit, let alone a retrofit by a tenant!

One story about your completely unfounded self recrimination. You have radicalized me, Beth, and I started out pretty hard core. Your blog is the only one I read and I count it as one of the blessings in my life. Years… Read more »

7 years 4 months ago

So many questions, so little time! Let’s see what I can get to before the kiddos wake up…

1. Door sweeps – aluminum & felt should work fine. I’ve also seen aluminum and rubber (I think it’s rubber) ones at HD.

Draft Dodger – if you’re allowed to put velcro on your door (or on your new sweep!) than I can make you a new dodger with velcro on one side to stick to it. This time I’ll leave the catnip out ;-)

2. Weather stripping – get yourself an incense stick. Light it and slowly move… Read more »