To Protest All Pipelines Boycott Oil Companies at the Gas Pump!

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The success so far, and support of The Sacred Stone Protest Camp has been amazing and awesome! The wisdom, authority (in so many ways), and organization of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others, has led to a halt in construction of the Dakota Access pipeline for now, which sets a precedent. JUDGE DENIES PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION, BUT OBAMA ADMINISTRATION HALTS CONSTRUCTION AT MISSOURI RIVER CROSSING.

The general premise for this protest is that all pipelines leak and pollute water supplies, and that the Dakota Access Pipeline is going right through their only water supply, so they they don’t want it. Seems reasonable. Dakota Access is planning on running the pipeline under the Missouri River.

This happened in 2011 when the pipeline ruptured under the Yellowstone River, Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil Into Yellowstone River.

NY Times article “Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil into Yellowstone River” and photo

In my opinion, because of the times where people are more and more empowered to stand up for what is right, enabled by social media and other movements, and because of so many past wrongs, The Sacred Stone Protest Camp has been successful. So let’s build on that, continue to support those tribes, and reduce our consumption of oil.

For decades major oil companies have been destroying water supplies of indigenous people around the globe, like in The Niger Delta. There are unprecedented rates of cancer among the indigenous tribes in that region from all of the oil development. Here is a NY Times article and quote on what the major oil companies have done to the Niger Delta, Far From Gulf, a Spill Scourge 5 Decades Old, “The Niger Delta, where the wealth underground is out of all proportion with the poverty on the surface, has endured the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill every year for 50 years by some estimates.”

There were similar, successful protests recently in the Amazon, http://amazonwatch.org/news/2016/0324-indigenous-women-unite-to-defend-the-amazon-mother-earth-and-climate-justice.

There is water contamination, habitat destruction, old growth forest removal, and more happening all over the globe for oil. We can’t burn oil to go to every protest, but we can stop using their product. We can stop giving them our money to continue this shit. Boycott as a form of protest! Ride your bike, use the bus. Don’t give those oil companies your money. Every time we go to the pump we’re supporting what the oil companies are doing.

We can also support politicians like John Kefalis, who proposes bills for a Front Range commuter rail, and is up for re-election in the fall.

It’s easy for me to use a bike for transportation as a life-long cyclist, fit dude with no kids, and my cross-country bike tour hardened me a little. I know cars are necessary for most. But we’ve been duped, tricked and fooled by the oil and auto industry for a century. See my post about the Great American Streetcar Scandal, What do Roger Ratrailer and gas pricebbit, George Bush Sr and Cuba have in common?, or just google it.

We have to treat oil like the precious resource that it is, and conserve it as much as possible. Just because it’s cheap for us, doesn’t mean we should burn it carelessly. And really, it’s not cheap when you consider all of the subsidies it gets and how much our military protects the transport of oil around the world! (see this post, So many reasons for Conserving Fossil Fuels other than Climate Change)

 

Both Gas-free Lawn Care and Native Grass Lawns are about Conservation

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I started my bike courier service, my reel mower sharpening shop, my blog and the gas-free lawn care service all to promote conservation, and more specifically, to help use less gas.

I most recently started the Gas-free lawn care service because I have all of the equipment for it, and hod carrying was way too hard on my body. In the middle of May the constant heavy lifting at work hurt my knee. So I had to quit the stone mason job. It was good timing as I was just getting busy in my shop sharpening reel mowers. And I had wanted to offer Gas-free Lawn Care since Enviro Lawn Care left town a couple years ago. It just made sense. So I started :

Rob’s Gas-Free Lawn Care and more

Using Reel Mowers, Hand Tools, and travelling by Bike and Trailer only, to maintain lawns quietly and non-polluting, in North Fort Collins! Human-Powered, Gas-Free Lawn Care;

  • Basic Service – Lawn mowing using a Fiskars Reel Mower (human powered), which cuts the grass quietly, and like a pair of scissors. This is better for the grass plant, opposed to the violent, impact cut from rotary mowers (gas or electric).
    • Trimming grass, bushes, and shrubs with hand clippers or shears
    • Edging the lawn with hand edger, able to create an edge with spade if needed
    • (Quiet) Clean-up using broom and rake, no leaf blowers!
  • Additional Services –
    • Yard waste removal, by bicycle and trailer
    • Fertilize with push spreader using organic fertilizer
    • Hauling by bike and trailer (hourly rates)
    • Garden tilling, by hand, with garden fork or rake (hourly rates)
    • Shrub and Tree (low level) pruning with hand loppers or shears (hourly rates)
    • Compost set-up (hourly rates)
    • Minor Xeriscaping and Native planting help (hourly rates)

No more expensive than traditional lawn care but quiet and non-polluting, without burning any fossil fuels at all! Call Rob for a quote at 970-231-6794.


And other things fell into place too, like finding everything I needed second-hand, at yard sales, thrift stores and on Craigslist. That Fiskars mower I have really does work well, and new it costs $250, but I got it off of Craigslist for $100. Then shortly after that, I sold two mowers without even trying, which paid for the Fiskars. When getting advice from Marty who did this here before, he called that Fiskars mower a “real workhorse”.

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Marty suggested getting an electric/rechargeable line trimmer to make trimming faster. But I can’t do it at this point because first, human power works!, and then there are so many environmental impacts that go with; rechargeable batteries, new plastic products, and products from China.

Plus, I keep finding great lawn and garden equipment really cheap at yard sales and thrift stores.


An example of the “and more” part in the photo below, which includes minor landscaping, xeriscaping, pruning, garden or compost set-up, and native planting.

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Over a thousand pounds of flagstone hauled by bike and path installed with hand tools

Bikes and reel mowers are great, practical tools for saving oil from being extracted, refined, transported and burned. Using both bikes and reel mowers on a regular basis helps keep us fit also.

But greater conservation, especially of water, can be achieved when sustainable concepts like Xeriscaping and planting native grass lawns, are applied first.

We are in a semi-arid, high desert climate with an average of only 12-14 inches of rainfall per year. We also get more than half of our municipal water supply from the Colorado River, on the other side of the Continental Divide. So Kentucky Bluegrass doesn’t really make sense when Buffalo and Blue Grama native grasses grow so well here without nearly as much water. But Kentucky Bluegrass is what’s planted and many folks rent or don’t know how to change their lawns.

Another component of the “and more” part to Rob’s Gas-free Lawn Care and More, is that I offer to help customers take out their non-native grass lawns and plant native grasses. So if you want a turf-like lawn, I think planting Buffalograss and mowing it with a reel mower makes for a very “green” lawn.

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Cody Buffalograss
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This yard is Cody Buffalograss. It is more turf-like, doesn’t need water and can be mowed to look like a lawn.
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Yard with all Blue Grama. It doesn’t need to be watered and the city allows you to let it grow without mowing it. This yard hasn’t been watered, besides rain, all year and the photo was taken in late July.

Working toward Zero Waste

Equinox Zero waste staion
Blocking that garbage can like a hockey goalie blocking the net!
From Wikipedia,
 The internationally recognized definition of ZERO WASTE adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) is:

“Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”


 

The goal for the Zero Waste stations for Green Events is to recycle everything that is recyclable and compost everything that is compostable, and then send as little waste as possible to the landfill. We measure this by weight, and the six events I’ve worked we have had a 95% or better diversion rate. This means that only 5% of the waste generated at the event, by weight, goes to the landfill. The rest goes to be recycled or composted.

Vendors in this town are pretty good about buying the most eco-friendly products (utensils, cups) they can. Before the event I go around to the vendors and figure what can be recycled and composted. So besides figuring what waste goes where for the waste stations, I sometimes do this at their counters..compost me

Fortunately, most paper products can be composted, including waxy cups and paper plates with food. Paper is a natural carbon source so it actually helps balance out the nitrogen source from food, like adding dead leaves.

Although the fork in the photo is made of plastic, many vendors are getting utensils made from corn, which can be composted. You can tell if a utensil is made from corn if it bends and doesn’t brake, and typically it won’t be white, but beige. Plastic utensils break when you bend them.


 

20150920_101946My favorite part of working these events, besides satisfying my neurosis of conservation, is the way people react to my neurotic behavior. I really do block the garbage can with cardboard and eyeball everything being thrown out. I’ll make people wait in line so that I can make sure everything goes in the correct bin. And most people appreciate it. I get many people telling me “Thank you for doing this”, or they will pull their kids aside to watch me be OCD over trash.

So the international definition tells us that the concept ‘Zero Waste’ is not literal, but a goal, to guide us toward Zero Waste.

For bringing the Zero Waste concept home, besides recycling, I think a home compost system is key. Even if you don’t garden, you you can still use your finished compost to fertilize your lawn, trees, shrubs and flowers, while you avoid throwing food into the landfill. See.. A Home Compost System is the Backbone to a good Garden!

 

Push (Reel) Mowers are greener, like bikes, but also cut better!

There are obvious benefits of push (reel) mowers:

  • Push mowers don’t require gas – According to the EPA, Americans use over 800 million gallons of gas per year mowing their lawns and spill over 17 million gallons of fuel, more than all the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez.
  • Push mowers are quiet.
  • Push mowers don’t pollute or stink up your air – A new gas powered lawn mower produces as much volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emissions air pollution in one hour of operation as 11 new cars each being driven for one hour, again, EPA statistic.
  • Push mowers are similar to bicycles by being simple, human-powered machines that are easy to maintain or renovatecropped-bike-trailer-mowers.jpg
  • Push mowers are lighter than power mowers.
  • They are less expensive and cost less to maintain and operate than power mowers.
  • No cords or batteries are needed.

But also…scissor cut

Reel mowers cut blades of grass just like a pair of scissors would. There is a back blade, the bed knife, and the moving, reel blades. This smooth, precise cut is better for the grass plant than the cut of a rotary power mower, gas or electric, which cuts with a violent, impact cut, leaving the grass blade jagged and rough.

Golf Courses use reel mowers because of how much better it is for the grass plant. But golf courses usually use tractors to pull multiple reels.

Putting Green push mower

Here is a Putting Green Push Reel Mower, it can cut as low as 1/4″. That is why reel mowers are used for putting greens, the grass can be cut that low when it’s cut with a pair of scissors, or something similar.

Then with the simple gearing between the wheels and the reel, you power the mower by pushing it, which spins the reel, mulawnmower gears 2 - Editedch faster because of the gear ratio.

Any reasonable sized lawn can be mowed with push (reel) mowers. Thicker, lusher lawns might need to be trained, meaning it may take a few times. But these mowers work great on lawns with native grasses that don’t require as much water.

In the West, if you incorporate more xeriscapng and native grasses in your lawn, a push-reel mower is the best choice for your; lawn, grass plants, air, ears, and world!


Craftsman, Scotts, & AmericanScott’s, Craftsman, American and Great States are all built by Great States, and range from $90 – $130 new. All four brands are solid, work well, easy to work on and and have the same replaceable parts (that you can get through Great States website).

Brills became popular 10-15 years ago. They are German made, well-built and designed to be very light, which has it’s pro’s and con’s. They don’t work as well on lusher lawns with Kentucky Bluegrass. They slide and don’t cut so well on thicker lawns, from my experience.

Where an older, heavy one will keep it’s traction and power right through thick grass.

The same is true with the heavier, more expensive Fiskars model, the StaySharp Max Reel Mower, which retails for $250. They are more expensive and a little harder to work on, but are probably worth it. I’ve only worked on a couple Fiskars, and although they were harder to work on, they seem very user friendly and customers said they work very well. The Fiskars StaySharp Max Reel Mower has heavy reel blades for keeping momentum and powering through thick grass and it also has inset wheels so it cuts to the edge.

old mower new roller
I had a friend turn a new roller on a lathe for a customer this past spring.

If you can find an older (1930’s – 1970’s), heavier, push mower at a garage sale then have it sharpened professionally,  you are re-using and you have the older quality. The older, heavier ones work really well when sharpened and tuned up, they just don’t adjust to cut as high as newer ones, but don’t necessarily need to.  A larger roller or longer hangers will raise the bed knife, and therefore raise the cut, also.       


Below, on the left, are two push (reel) mowers that work great, one from the 1930’s and one from 1940’s. Then on the right is a reel mower made in the 1950’s, with a motor on it, because we really need a chainsaw to cut butter!

1930's and 40's era mowers

1950's era mower

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading my blog!

Car-Free Recreation Does NOT Mean Get Rid of your Car

I have a blog post about Car-Free Recreation with a link to the Car-Free Recreation Guide to Northern Colorado that I created in 2008, https://humanpowerworks.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/car-free-recreation/.

Cars are necessary, I never say get rid of them. I just say ‘drive less’, and be aware that our addiction to cars and oil has a large impact. I am no20150703_114422t doing ‘Car-Free Rehab’ for my recent hip scope. A friend let me borrow her car for errands and going to physical therapy until I could ride my bike again.

But the point of Car-Free Recreation is that when you’re going to play outside, stay outside, and get there on a bike. Save the car trips for the rare, or bad weather, adventures.  And then never idle at a trail head and ask anyone who does, not to. 

This is especially for very fit and active people, who are capable of modifying workouts, runs and rides to using a bike instead of a car. Compromise, innovate and be creative. Just leave it parked when when going outside to play. Stay a little closer, buy more touring gear, and build up to longer trips. Why put your bike on your car to go for a ride when you can start your ride from your doorstep?

Look at what Goran Kropp did in the 90’s for the purpose of a Car-Free goran-kropp-660Adventure. He rode to Mt. Everest from Sweden, reached the summit without help or extra oxygen, then rode back to Sweden.

And last week, the women who won the Great Divide Race rode 2,000 miles from her home in Anchorage to the start of the race in Banff. Then she raced the Great Divide Race and won, crushing the previous record.

In Fort Collins there are so many amazing places to play within a an hour round-trip ride, including: Horsetooth Reservoir (and a Cycletote trailer could easily carry a Stand Up Paddleboard or two!), Coyote Ridge, Maxwell and Reservoir Ridge Natural Areas, multiple climbing areas, the soccer complex and so much more!

Then, within a days ride to and a days ride from, we have: The Pawnee Grasslands, Soapstone and Bobcat Ridge Natural Areas (both can be done as one-day, to and from adventures, just pack food and rain gear), Poudre Canyon, Pingree Park and nearby wilderness areas, and Rocky Mountain National Park.

So for the people using the outdoors to recreate and exercise, it’s our responsibility to protect our air quality as much as we can.

I know that Car-Free Recreation can be done at all levels and is so worth it.

Thanks for reading my blog!

So many reasons for Conserving Fossil Fuels other than Climate Change

Time story on California’s oil spill..

An oil slick is seen along the coast of Refugio State Beach in Goleta, Calif. on May 19, 2015.
http://time.com/3891739/california-oil-spill-jerry-brown-state-of-emergency/?xid=newsletter-brief

For decades, savvy marketing and advertising has been telling us that we need a chainsaw to cut butter. Because we bought it and continue to spend so much money at the pump, we’ve made some big messes that are going to be hard to clean up.

As long as we keep buying so much gas and consuming so much with heavy transportation costs, things will continue the status quo.

trailer and gas price
Just because we can afford it, doesn’t mean we should burn it!

If someone is a climate denier, one who doesn’t believe climate change is caused by humans, there are still so many reasons to conserve, especially oil. That’s the new term right, climate deniers? I like ‘flat-earthers’. Yeah, people used to think the earth was flat also.

So let’s just say that pulling all of this ancient carbon out of the ground, burning it and putting it into the atmosphere, of a closed system, isn’t affecting extreme weather. Let’s say that the extreme weather and earth events are not caused by us and are out of our control.

Here are some other reasons for conserving fossil fuel energy:

Fracking and oil drilling are linked to the unprecedented number of earthquakes in Oklahoma and other states.

 We poison ourselves, our air and water to kill mosquitoes when there are about 20 cases of West Nile virus and one death. But why don’t we have the same attitude toward cars. How many deaths per year are caused by car wrecks? Air pollution? Oil well leaks and explosions? Wars? It’s unnatural what car wrecks do to the human body.  I wish we attacked cars like we did mosquitoes.

Those are reasons for conserving fossil fuel energy other than climate change. But NASA studies climate change. Industry is being affected by it and believes climate change is real. Nike and Coca-cola recently spearheaded a global conference on how climate change is affecting global production. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/24/science/earth/threat-to-bottom-line-spurs-action-on-climate.html and http://www.environmentalleader.com/2014/01/27/coke-nike-call-climate-change-commercial-threat/

bike tour windmills

There are so many ways to conserve oil and other fossil fuels, here are my thoughts:

  • Drive less! – Ride your bike instead when you can, or carpool, combine trips, call ahead, and stay closer. Ride a bike for recreation. If you’re going to play outside, stay outside and get there on a bike! see Car-free Rec blog.
  • Don’t Idle your car! – drive slow and gently to warm it up in the winter, use a blanket or tarp (or garage) to keep it from frosting outside, and wear a coat in the winter. They say turn it off after 30 seconds.  blog coming.
  • Use a reel-push mower for cutting you lawn instead of gas or electric. Blog coming.
  • Buy Local! Cut down on transportation costs and support your local economy. Blog coming.
  • Use a clothes line and hang your clothes to dry – especially in Colorado where it’s so dry with so much sun. Dryers consume the second most energy in homes after refrigerators. Blog coming.LR-11

Thanks for reading!

Rob