Tuesday, October 15, 2013

7 Green(Washed) Things You Should Never Buy Again

I just  received this email from Green America that I thought was worth sharing.  Seven short and sweet summaries of how we can be more informed consumers.

7 Green(Washed) Things You Should Never Buy Again
1. Biodegradable Bags

What do they cost? $5 – $20
Smile SkullWhat’s wrong with them?
Unless you know these bags are ending up in a compost bin, they’re not doing the planet or your wallet any good. There’s a good chance they’ll end up in a landfill where they will fail to decompose due to the anaerobic state of compacted trash.
Buy this instead: Reusable bags made of cotton or with high recycled plastic content are a great choice ($10 – $20). Also, remember to reuse the many plastic bags that may package your food ($0).

2. Conventional Granola Bars 

What do they cost? $4 – $6 for a box of 18 to 24 bars.
What’s wrong with them? Conventional wisdom says that granola bars are a quick and healthy way to start your day, but most of them are filled with sugar, carbohydrates, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), with little of the beneficial protein and fiber they like to tout on their labels. Some have artificial flavors and preservatives. Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars (owned by General Mills), for example, contain soy protein, soy flour, canola oil, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar syrup, and soy lecithin, all of which are highly likely to contain GMOs.

Buy this instead: Certified organic energy bars with high protein and low sugar content. Foods bearing the certified organic label cannot contain GMOs. A handful of organic nuts makes a healthy snack, as well.

3. "Green" or "Ethical" Bottled Water
What does it cost? $1.75 – $4.50
What’s wrong with it? Bottled water sends approximately two million tons of plastic to landfills each year. Even if all the plastic was recycled, it still represents a huge carbon footprint, especially when you consider how far much of this water must be trucked before it reaches its destination. Plus, plastic downcycles, meaning that you can recycle it once or twice, and then it becomes an unusable mess — which ends up as waste in landfills or the ocean.
Buy this instead: Tap water ($0). If you’re concerned about your local water quality, consider buying a water filter ($30 and up).

4. Cell Phone Radiation Screen 

What does it cost? $17 – $30
What’s wrong with it? Manufacturers of these screens claim they mitigate the harmful effects of cell phone radiation, but their effectiveness is highly suspect and not at all regulated.
Buy this instead: Use a plug-in headset ($5 – $30), or put your cell on speaker phone and hold it at least two inches away from your body ($0) to minimize radiation exposure. Even a Bluetooth headset will help.
5. Recyclable Plastic Products

What do they cost? $3 – $20
What’s wrong with them? “Recyclable” plastic sounds green, but this phrase is a classic example of greenwashing. Just because plastic is recyclable doesn’t mean there will be facilities available for you to recycle it in your state. It also does not mean that the item contains any recycled content. In addition, as noted in #3, plastic downcycles, rather than recycles, into waste that invariably ends up in landfills or the ocean.
Buy this instead: Replace plastics with reusable glass or metal containers such as a stainless steel water bottle ($12 – $40).

6. Greenwashed Cleaning Products

What does they cost? 22 oz. for $5

What’s wrong with them? Many of these greenwashed products claim to be “nontoxic”—a term that is unregulated on product labels and is basically meaningless—yet include toxins in their ingredient list.
Buy this instead: Truly green cleaners certified by Green America’s Green Business Network®. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps m (16 oz. for $10.50), for example, are not only certified Fair Trade and organic but are also nontoxic. Their concentrated formula means that once you dilute their soaps, you’ll be getting the same amount of cleaning for a comparable amount of money. Another option is to make your own cleaning products.

7. Ethanol Fuel

What does it cost? New cars that can run on E85 are of comparable cost to new gasoline-powered vehicles.
What’s wrong it? Ethanol, which is mainly produced from corn in the United States, takes a vast amount of fossil fuels to grow and should not be considered green. In addition, the mostly genetically modified corn that the fuel is made from contributes to problems with GM cross-contamination and Monsanto’s hold on American seeds.
Buy this instead: Biodiesel made from waste products such as used cooking oil is a more environmentally friendly alternative. Kits for converting used cooking oil into biodiesel run from $1,000 to $2,000.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Russ' Dream VW Truck Totalled- Sadness!!!!

What do you do when your antique/fully rebuilt truck is totaled and insurance doesn't want to give you the money for the parts and time you have into to it? The back story: It all began because I, Brittany, bought a 2002 to VW Jetta that was converted to run on waste vegetable oil (WVO). The WVO oil was part of the car was great, the 2002 Jetta part of the car was a lemon. If we were going to continue with the WVO thing Russ said we needed a different vehicle... something older... something without a computer in it. (He was a bike mechanic, so he understood moving parts, computers were a whole different game that he would later figure out). After lots of research he said to me, "What we need is a 1980 VW Rabbit Pickup." This was in 2008. So he began looking for a truck the same age as us!  What?!?! Okay. 
He came across a beautifully restored golden brown 1980 Rabbit caddy in California for $6900. He flew out there, barely knowing how to operate a manual/"stick shift" and drove it back to Utah. We puttzed (literally) around in that truck for several years. One thing at a time would fail on it. And one thing at a time he would fix on it. As frustrated as he was about all of the work he had to do on this "restored" vehicle, all of those lessons led him to the 25+ trucks he has saved from the junk yard.

In 2010 we sold the little brown truck and upgraded to a 1996 VW Passat TDI, with AC and airbags. But his love for the early 80s caddy rebuilds continued.

With each vehicle that would come into our driveway he would say, "This is in the one. This is the one I will fix up and keep." And the day would come that it was finished and he would look at a truck/car and his eyes would see "$$$$$ $$$$$$" and he'd post it on the Vortex or Ebay or KSL and it would sell in a matter of days.

Then one day, after about 10 months of work and some slime green paint with black trim and interior and a rebuilt TDI engine. He had found "the one". There was no puttzing along in this one. It had a TDI (turbo diesel engine) in it. He was pulled over several times for speeding in the green truck! He had to admit, as much as he loved this truck and with our pending move to China, this truck also had a price tag. He had it insured for $7000, but if someone wanted to give him $8000 for it, he would let it go. He had a guy on the line for it for that amount.... until I was rear-ended by a guy that caused a four car pileup four weeks back. The green truck is totaled.

So now to the point of this whole post and to hopefully help someone in a similar situation in the future. What do you do when your antique/fully rebuilt truck is totaled and insurance doesn't want to give you the money for the parts and time you have into to it? The guy who rear-ended the woman behind me, causing her to hit me, causing me to hit the car in front of me was fully at fault for the accident. His insurance, we will call "Insurance P", valued the truck at $3900. That is quite the kick in the pants to a guy who had more than that into it in parts alone. Not counting the $3000 in labor. So we called our insurance to see what we could do about it. We thought it would be easy cheesy, since we had it insured for $7000. Little did we know that that would only be the case if we had it appraised within 2-3 months of an insurance claim. Never the less, we filed a claim through our insurance knowing that we would still have to pay the deductible. The adjustor that came out didn't seem too optimistic that we'd see $7000. After some feeling bad for ourselves for a bit, we reflected on what the fundamental concern for an insurance company was. It is not making sure that people are protected or that their things are valued. Their fundamental concern is the bottom line. MONEY. They only want to pay out what they can prove is the value of something. So Russ and I went to work to dig up receipts for all of the parts in the truck, the rebuild of the engine and injection pump, we even submitted a bill of sale of a similar truck that Russ had sold a few months back.

There was no way for insurance to find a comparable on a 1982 body, with a custom European front end put on it, with a rebuilt turbo diesel engine with only 3,000 miles on it, and a brand new paint job and restored interior.

But we did the best we could to provide all of the information the insurance companies could possibly want and then we anxiously waited for a phone call from each insurance company. Insurance P called back saying that none of that info made a difference and they were sticking with the $3900 value. So I braced myself with pen and paper when our insurance called....they valued the truck at $7440!!!!!! It wasn't the $8000 that Russ was expecting to sell the truck for, but it was so much more than we were expecting the insurance company to be willing to give us!!! And Russ was able to buy the truck back with a salvage title for $350 and he can part it out. The engine is still great and all of the other valuable 1982 rabbit specific parts are salvageable, so in the end Russ will come out ahead. So the moral of the story is... save your receipts, be willing to stand up for yourself, do some leg work for the insurance company, and be Russ (because you can do something with all of the leftover parts!).

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Home for Rent

We are moving overseas for a year and are looking to rent our home to loving hands while we are gone.  We are hoping to leave it furnished, but can move furniture out if needed.  10-12 month lease option.  We are flexible on move in and out dates. We feel strongly about having no pets, smoking or small children.

2 Bedroom/1 Bathroom Eco Friendly 1200 sq/ft
Built in 2009
-Full/Partially/Not furnished (whatever is needed)
-All energy star appliances
-Front loading Washer/Dryer
-Concrete Countertops
-Vaulted Ceiling
-Attic Storage
-Radiant Floor Heat
-Wood Burning Stove
-On demand hot water
-Yard Care Provided!!!!
-East and West Porches (comfortable for any time of day or year)
-Outdoor fire/chiminea
-Incredible view of Horseshoe Mountain
-Across the street from a soccer field 
-1 block from tennis courts

Rent- $750
Deposit $2000 The deposit is high do to the unique nature of our home.  

For information about what a straw bale house is click: HERE
To view interior photos click: HERE
A summary of utilities click: HERE

Note- Shop space at rear of lot is not for rent and will be used for our storage while we are gone.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Our Home in a Magazine!

A couple of months ago an editor at SHEKNOWS magazine contacted us about highlighting our home in their sustainable living section.  It was a little funny to us because we just do what we do because it's how we want to do things.  We realize that building your home, insulated by straw, with your own hands and driving a car that runs on waste vegetable oil are definitely not for everyone.  But it is quite the compliment to have a total stranger recognize it as something other people might be interested in, too.

Click the links below to see/read the two little photo stories about our home. 
"Brittany and Russ Hopkins began construction on their home just one week after their honeymoon. The process was trial by fire but the result is a one-of-a-kind, beautiful straw bale home, leading the way for sustainable practices and stellar style." Constructing the Straw Bale Home

"Sustainable living doesn't have to skimp on style. Need proof? Take a walk through the Hopkins' straw bale home, a true testament to functionality and fun, chic ..." Straw Bale Style

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hopkins' Straw Bale Home Interior Photos

Big news that I haven't shared via the blog yet is that Russ and I are moving to Beijing for a year to teach dance and photography at a high school!!!! We are looking for a loving and kind person to rent and care for our home while we are gone. We are hoping to leave it furnished for whomever that person may be. If not we will pack away the un-needed furniture and things into the garage while we're gone. I've been meaning to take some better interior shots for awhile now. So here is what our straw bale home looks like after three years of love! I would show the guest room- but it is currently packed with things we are hoping to sell at our HUGE garage sale this weekend. It is funny how even in such a small home one can squirrel away all kinds of things that don't get used. It feels good to have spring in the air for cleaning and purging! Enjoy the photos!