In about a month, we will be a family of five. We have struggled for a long time about what this means for us with regards to vehicles. We’ve always prefered smaller cars and were not looking forward to possibly needing a minivan or SUV. Additionally, we’d been hoping for a long time that our next car would be a Prius, which would probably not the best vehicle for a family with three kids.
Last weekend, we finally decided to purchase a Toyota Highlander Hybrid. The mid-size SUV has a third row of seats and thanks to the hybrid engine, gets about 30 mpg. This is actually better mileage than our previous 4WD sedan got, especially in the city. Buying the hybrid version added about 8k to the price of the car, but gives us about 10 more mpg (at least when driving around town). With an 18-gallon tank, that means we get an extra 150-200 miles per tank than non-hybrid versions. When I do the math, I don’t think we’ll ever save enough money in fuel costs to make up for the cost of the hybrid, but that’s okay with me. I love driving it, knowing I’m having a smaller impact on the environment. And the conversations I’ve had with my 5-year old about hybrids and where gasoline comes from and why it’s not good for the earth have been priceless. Continue reading »
I went to a presentation last night on summer air quality in my city. Apparently, we have failed federal air standards for the past three years due to our high amounts of ozone (carbon monoxide, lead, particulate matter, nitrogen oxide and other pollutants were in compliance). Ozone is produced when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) mix with sunlight. Since sunlight is a crucial ingredient in ozone, most is produced during the summer, and most of that is during peak sun hours. People that spend time outside during these hours are exposed to more pollution. This may be contributing to the high rates of asthma we have around here. I was especially concerned as we frequently exercise outdoors, walking, running, and biking when the sun is out. And since my children breath 50% more air per pound of body weight than I do, I’m worried about their health. Continue reading »
We just tried our first zero VOC paint. The paint base has no VOCs and the colorant is also free of VOCs. There aren’t many paints on the market that use a no-VOC colorant so I was really excited to try it. I thought the paint was great. It covered well and I was happy with its performance. It does have a bit of an odor but it doesn’t smell like usual paint chemicals. I was happy enough with it that I’m comfortable recommending it, Natura from Benjamin Moore, on this site. One of the greatest things about this paint, unlike other truly zero VOC paints, is that you can tint it to any color Benjamin Moore offers.
I ran into a neighbor at the local pub over the weekend and mentioned that we had been painting over the weekend. She said she was going to paint soon too and we started talking about it. I mentioned that the low-VOC paints we had used were on sale until the end of the month, to which she responded “low VOC??”
I can’t believe that there are still people out there who have never heard of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). I don’t really expect the average person to have a strong enough chemistry background to understand that a volatile organic compound is anything containing carbon that is under high enough vapor pressure that it vaporizes into the air we breath. But I am surprised that the average consumer is not very educated and that many people are making poor decisions for their health and the environment not because it’s cost effective or easier but rather out of sheer ignorance. So I guess that’s where my blog comes in… Continue reading »