Monday, December 24, 2007

Best Holiday Wishes

There is something different about this Christmas for me. And it's more than just a different year in a different place -- or maybe it's less. I made an effort to simplify things this year, and it seems that a lot of people in my life did the same. I remember something my mother said to me last year after participating in the traditional holiday rush to the mall. She said, "It just leaves you feeling empty."

I'm not sure if everyone has felt that way, but in the past, I have. There's something about rushing through the process of giving that somehow cheapens it. So this year, quite a few people that they didn't really "need" me to get them anything for the holidays. "Donate to charity," some said. Or, "getting to spend time with family is enough."

I sense a trend, at least in my own sphere of relationships, toward a simplified, more intimate and slower way of carrying out our traditions. I realized, as I was making an oil painting for my niece instead of buying her a plastic toy, that it takes more time to do it this way, and maybe that's why it doesn't seem to be the norm. But it was also more relaxing and left me feeling full instead of empty.

We're not abandoning our traditions, just tweaking them. We still brought a Christmas tree inside, but this year, we decided to buy a live tree. We could have headed out to a local nursery to pick one up, but I found a very cool service here in Portland called The Original Living Christmas Tree Company ( and they deliver live Christmas trees two weeks before Christmas and then pick them up on New Year's Day, to be delivered to a local company or regional park at a discount.

We didn't have any Christmas ornaments, so we made our own out of three or four scratched CDs and DVDs that would have otherwise gone to the garbage can. (I'm especially proud of the star.) We didn't have lights for the tree, so we purchased some LEDs from a hardware store just down the block. It's great to see LEDs coming into the mainstream. It's true that they're more expensive than incandescents, but the string we purchased will last for 20 years or more, the bulbs are unbreakable and the energy savings will pay for the string over time. They are 98 percent more efficient than traditional lights. What would cost $100 in electricity at average rates with traditional incandescents, will cost $1.83 with LEDs. I'm really looking forward to the day when the residential lighting aisle's have just as many LED options.

So yes, the tree is smaller than most and there aren't as many gifts underneath it, but the simplicity feels damn good. There aren't any lights on the outside of the house to spread holiday cheer, but I've had enough time to smile at people on the street, and that seems to be working just as well.

May the season find you happy and healthy and in the best of company, surrounded by warmth and light.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The New Ship

Okay, so the new ship is really an old ship, but you're not even going to recognize her when we're finished. I just purchased this 1994 Safari Trek diesel from a gentleman in Spokane, Washington, who also happens to be investing his wealth into creating a sustainable, earth-bermed home. In February, we will bring her to Portland to begin the green make-over.

Anyhow, this rig only has 7,500 miles on her (I know, that's the beauty of buying from seasonal RVers), and at 27-feet, she is seven feet shorter than the first biotrekker, about 10,000 pounds lighter and also about two feet shorter in vertical height. She gets between 12 and 17 mpg, although her top speed is only about 70mph. She's boxy, but cute.

For us, it's a more sustainable move that makes sense. It feels good to buy used and breathe new life into an RV that has tons of potential. We will be gutting most of the interior and either painting the exterior or wrapping it in graphics similar to bioTrekker1. The big changes will come when we add things like a large solar PV system, LED lighting, rainwater harvesting, solar thermal heating, better insulation, etc. Of course, the progress will be posted.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Revolution Green

Just caught the Oregon screening of the latest biodiesel documentary, Revolution Green. It's definitely worth a viewing and would be especially good for those who are new to the scene. The website is:

There is a movement within the biodiesel industry to focus on sustainable production (or at the very least to move in that direction) and the documentary focuses on that movement and the people who were very important in its creation. Defining 'sustainable' can get a bit tricky, but it primarily has to do with localized production and distribution of a fuel, rather than one giant, centralized production area, which is pretty much the model we have now.