Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Story of Stuff at Becomers

Last Sunday, May 17, representatives from 1st EcoTeam visited with the Becomers class to watch and discuss what is perhaps one the most famous viral videos making the rounds on the Internet these days. The 20 minute, free screencast can be viewed on individual computers at the Story of Stuff web site which also has a wealth of resource materials on the global materials economy.

Interestingly, The Story of Stuff had been mentioned the previous Friday night on the weekly television show, The Bill Moyer's Journal. Moyers pointed out that among other things the video has been banned in Missoula, Montana schools after having been accused of being "anti-capitalist."

Moyers' guest for the program was Daniel Goleman, New York Times journalist and well known proponent of emotional intelligence and . The Goleman interview is also well worth watching. He outlines some of the concepts from his new book Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of Everything We Buy Can Change Everything. He named the site as an example of the "radical transparency" that is needed to negotiate the transition we must be embarking on.

Annie Leonard who produced and hosted the video has been criticized widely both by those who disagree with her politics (She's a former Greenpeace activist) and by those who are annoyed by her style (She pulls no punches).

But her basic proposition – that the global materials economy we have inherited and helped build – has not been successfully answered.

It [the current global materials economy] is a linear system
and we live on a finite planet ... and you cannot run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely.

Perhaps the most interesting thing in the video for Christians is when Leonard provides perspective on the historical development of the current system.

Quoting from Victor Lebow, noted economist writing in 1955, she explains how the consumption model came to dominate in the U.S.

Our enormously productive economy ... demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption ... we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate. (Victor Lebow, Journal of Retailing, 1955)

In any case, the visit with the Becomers was lively and engaging. Wouldn't it be great if that class could be the beginning of a real dialogue about these important issues facing our church (as well as our country and the world)?

Nothing wrong with dreaming...

Friday, March 6, 2009

1st EcoTeam Meeting, Jan. 11, 2009

Adam and Brett - hope that second name is right - cousins, from Urban Life, came to meeting, and will check with programming as to when Joe can do presentation for their group. Urban Life has 30-40 attending each Sunday, and if we can present to them, will garner momentum for group, since their generation is eco-friendly. This should be high priority to do ASAP to get them attending our meetings. Joe is the best one to present to them since he knows "youth-speak".

Mike Holloway will tell Wayne Smith (city park board member and member of Class, etc.) that we want to do tree planting in Fall, and may have as many as 25-30 people, given Urban life participation. We need to verify that we don't buy the trees, but some organization provides, and we just provide labor. Linda Stanford and Mike will work on this together.

Joe will check with First Methodist. Fort Worth about attending their group, which meets the third Sunday, and Joe will tell us details so we can compare notes with them. Joe will go but all others welcome.

We will have a booth and computer slide presentation at Chili-cookoff (1/25. Sunday), Lennijo Henderson will provide "green chili" (vegetarian), Joe will provide info about recycling centers, computer/energy efficient light bulb disposal by computer slide at cookoff - other information. Gary Duke will prepare the slide show. Staff contact Elise Daniel,, or 214-220-2727, ext.204

1st EcoTeam meets every second Sunday after worship.

Attendees 1/11: Joe, Kelsey, Linda, Connie, Tom, Mike, Adam and Brett.
The original notes from the Nov. Meeting are available here.

-Notes by MIke Holloway

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Home Chemical Waste Disposal

The city of Dallas offers a free disposal service for home chemical waste. The hours are a bit odd so you'll probably need to plan your trip. Check the website for details and be sure to take a recent utility bill to prove you're a resident. Non-residents can use the service but have to pay a $95 disposal fee.

Monday, December 8, 2008

1st EcoTeam Meeting, Nov. 10, 2008

1st EcoTeam is now meeting on a monthly basis. And the November 10 meeting was another filled with ideas and plans as well as reports on activities.

There have been ecoteam presentations to several Sunday School classes. Joe DeLeon and cohorts shared the Intro class with Doubleaires and Voyagers. The classes went well although it is now felt that there isn’t quite enough time to do the 11 minute video in the intro class. We’re hoping someone will find one that’s 3 - 5 minutes so that could be used instead.

There’s also a need for videos of this type for the web site. Several people have seen “The Story of Stuff” and suggested that there could be an excellent class built entirely on that.
Glen Suhren did the global warming class for the Voyagers. It was a two part series and dealt exclusively with the scientific evidence. As an engineer, Glen has a good grasp of the science and communicates it well.
Tom Downing and John Holbert did two “First the Word” Saturdays on a topic near and dear to doom and gloom environmentalists: The end of the world.

The committee reaffirmed our commitment to education at the church. People are largely uninformed about the strong, public statements that the Methodist Church has made regarding our responsibility to the environment. These have been part of The Book of Discipline for many years.
It was felt that there needs to be more attention drawn to the fact that FUMC gets 10% of our energy from renewable sources while Northhaven gets 100% from renewables.

Joan Cole suggested that we see if we can get Dan Northcutt as a speaker for one of our events. He’s director of environmental studies at St. Mark’s and does superb presentations on global warming and renewable energy. We’re hoping to make connections with Rocky or Dana so a coordinated event might be planned.
Lennijo Henderson announced that she will be leading a six week study group on the connection between food and sustainability entitled “Menu for the Future.” The course will be held from 6 - 8 pm at the Micah Center at Cochran Chapel UMC and a light supper will be provided. The cost of the six session series is $90 and includes all course materials.
As we look toward 2009 we need to be thinking about the One Great Gift of Service activity. Right now we’re thinking an EcoFair will be our contribution. Tom also indicated that there is still a need for more desk recycling containers. Someone also suggested that we should also make sure that trash cans are located next to recycling containers in order to insure that the right items land in the most appropriate container.
We’re also looking at a tree planting in the Fall. Mike Holloway will talk to Wayne Smith about identifying a park where we might do this.

We hope to have another recycling drive. Joe said he’d like to get that off the ground this year but several indicated that it’s not likely till after the first of the year.
There was some discussion of the 1st EcoTeam website. We’ll be posting the notes for all our meetings on the blog and it will be sent to interested friends — along with a note that they can be taken off the mailing list if they desire.
Someone asked where the 1st EcoTEam blog is located on the church web site. Answer: It’s under Missions and Outreach. Decision: Change it to: Missions and Outreach → 1st EcoTeam.
The original notes from the Nov. Meeting are available here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

1st EcoTeam Meeting, Sept 14, 2008

The 1st EcoTeam met on Sept 14,2008 for the first time under Joe DeLeon’s leadership. The committee charged with developing a “Intro” class for Sunday Schools reported on their work. Under the heading of “God, Nature, and Humanity” they presented their outline which consists of: 1. The Biblical Basis. 2. Sustainability. 3. Current issues. and 4. An Invitation to Join 1st Ecoteam. This is the first in a series of classes that will be available under the name Environmental Stewardship Series.

Others we hope to include in the series are: Global Warming: The Science (Glen Suhren), Theological Perspectives (Tom Downing), Competing Interests: The Future of Energy (John Ozmun), Conservation (Joe DeLeon) and one on Health and Pollution (teacher to be determined).

Tom Downing and John Holbrook will also be doing an upcoming “First the Word” presentation on what the end of the world might be like — to complement their earlier class on what the beginning of the world might have been like.

We brainstormed ideas on possible activities for the coming year. Several of the ideas seemed to come together around the notion of an EcoFair. Susan Holloway volunteered to cochair that effort.

For a complete list of the brainstormed ideas, see the full meeting notes at (user: libstaff, password: libstaff)

Our next meeting will be Sunday, Oct. 12 from 12:30 - 2:00 pm (probably in the Patio). Bring your own food or wait till later.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Gas Mileage

Interested in helping the environment and spurred by gas prices, I recently decided to enact a science experiment. This details my experiment.

Results (short version):
Driving 65 mph does save gas!
Ranger - Previously 19 or 20 Miles per Gallon (MPG)
Now 21 or 22 MPG
Escape - Previously 18 or 19 MPG
Now 20 or 21 MPG

In the 1970's the was a gas shortage. To help reduce the need for gasoline, a national 55 Miles Per Hour speed limit was created. The reasoning was simple: After 55 Miles per Hour (MPH) the fuel efficiency of any vehicle will decrease exponentially. Eventually, gas was again in ready supply and people "can't drive 55". So, slowly those limits were lifted. Now, speed limits commonly reach up to 70 MPH in some stretches. And while cars are now more efficient than ever, science hasn't cured the 55 MPH drop off. I was reminded of this recently when I read a story saying that you could increase your gas mileage if you'd just drop down to 65 MPH. So, I decided to give it a try.

If I drive no more than 65 MPH, it will increase my gas mileage. And not just a bit, but a noticeable (and therefore WORTH WHILE) difference.

Vehicles involved:
1999 Ford Ranger, 2WD, Extended Cab, 3.0L V-6 engine with 5-speed manual transmission
Approximately 135,000 miles
Before experiment I would get around 19-20 MPG
EPA Rates this vehicle at 19 MPG city / 24 MPG freeway / 21 MPG combined

This vehicle is mainly driven to work and back. Bumper to bumper traffic from Oak Cliff up 35 or Zang/Beckley to the Dallas North Toll Road. There traffic generally opens up and I can drive 65 MPH to 635. That is where I work. The drive home is generally slower.

2004 Ford Escape, 2WD, 3.0L V-6 engine, 4-speed auto with Overdrive
Approximately 45,000 miles
Before experiment we would get around 18-19 MPG
EPA Rates this vehicle at 17 MPG city / 23 MPG freeway / 19 MPG combined

This vehicle goes the same route as the Ranger, except it stops at the Toll Road and Lovers Lane. It is also the weekend driver for our family.

The experiment is simple: Drive no more than 65 MPH. The first tank of gas I really struggled remembering to keep the speed down. So, I took a sticky note and put it on my speedometer. It's much easier to remember to drive less than 65 MPH when you can't see the speedometer at 70+ MPH. Previously, I would regularly drive up to 75 MPH when traffic allowed.

The results are immediately seen. From one tank to the next, I saw a jump in roughly 3 MPG, despite I drive mostly in stop and go traffic. In the Escape, the change has been comparable. The greatest was this past weekend in the Escape. We took a trip approximately 180 miles one way, mostly freeway. On that drive we averaged as much as 23 MPG!

Once again, environmentally friendly and cost efficiency work in perfect harmony. Dropping your max speed just a bit to 65 MPH will save you mileage! Considering the continued rise in gas prices, can we afford not to? And, of course, saving gas mileage means saving pollution. It's a win-win.

I encourage everyone to try this earnestly for just a single tank of gas. Put your sticky note on the dash and stay under 65 MPH. You will see the difference at the pump, too!

Just fill up your tank and reset your trip meter. After driving a tank at 65 MPG, fill it up again. Divide your mileage against how many gallons you put in the tank. That will give you the Miles per Gallon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One Great Gift of Service 2008

Many thanks to all who made our One Great Gift of Service double header event a smashing success! On Saturday, April 19 we placed 162 reminders on light switch reminders throughout the church. With those -- and a good followup -- we hope to make a dent in that $10,000 plus electric bill that we ALL help create each month.

We also selected, purchased, delivered,labeled, and distributed 20 blue, desk side recycling containers in offices of clergy and staff.

On Sunday, we hosted the One Great Gift of Service reception in CrossRoads Center. We served environmentally friendly coffee in real cups (no styrofoam today) and did just about everything we could think of to educate folks on the meaning and value of fair trade products.

There was lots of literature from Equal Exchange and even though we decided not to sell fair trade coffee yet, we did encourage people to purchase it through the Equal Exchange web site. Examples of fair trade products including coffee, chocolate, and tea were on display. Videos were rolling: Awakening Your Consciousness from Equal Exchange and one from a lecture by Tom Kimmerer.

The United Methodist Church General Conference Resolution Regarding Use of Fair Trade Coffee was prominently displayed as were materials from the UMCOR Coffee Project.