What if I told you that we have a new source of fuel? begins New York Times technology reporter David Pogue in a recent CBS Morning News cover story. Its cheap, it burns cleaner than coal, its found right here in America, and theres enough of it for the next hundred years. This fuel is natural gas and its source is gigantic deposits of shale rock from miles underground.
And more good news? Pogue reports that with our 36,000 fracking wells in America, the price of natural gas dropped by 33 percent since 2006, and supplies are plentiful enough that we are about to export it. It also can make millionaires out of struggling farmers.
In Promised Land, Matt Damon is Steve Butler, who represents a $9 billion a year natural gas company and buys rights from farmers and rural townsfolk to use their land to set up fracking wells. Problem is, the process of fracking is imperfect, and even potentially dangerous.
Sure, it's a clean and efficient resource, says the towns trusted science teacher Frank Yates, played by Hal Holbrook. But the way they go about getting it is some dirty business.
Heres how the "dirty business" works. The gas is locked inside the shale rock, so we drill about a mile down below the water line, then make a right turn horizontally before injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals at extremely high pressures to open the rock and free the gas and oil. As Pogue points out, weve been fracturing rocks for oil for more than 60 years. But in the last decade, weve totally transformed the process by adding that horizontal business . . . all the chemicals . . . and the colossal pressure of the water.
[In his ongoing but sporadic series Don't Throw That Away!, the Green Cheapskate shows you how to repurpose just about anything, saving money and the environment in the process. Send him your repurposing ideas and challenges, but whatever you do, Don't Throw That Away!]
"Jeff, can't we at least celebrate the holiday before you eat the decorations?" I've heard that more than once from my long-suffering wife during our 26-year marriage.
You see, cheapskates like to celebrate Halloween and other holidays just like everyone else. But we grimace at wasteful rituals like throwing away a perfectly good pumpkin after using it for only a few days as a decoration. Americans buy more than one billion pounds of pumpkins at Halloween, and the vast majority of those end up in the trash. But at the Green Cheapskate's house, we eat our jack-o-lantern, every last bit of it.
While some particularly meaty varieties of pumpkins are specifically grown to be eaten (including Sweet Jack-be-Littles, Cheese Pumpkins, Sugar Pumpkins and some delicious heirloom varieties), any commonly available pumpkin is perfectly edible. Best of all, at Halloween (and immediately after Halloween) you can usually buy pumpkins for less than half a buck a pound. At that price, why not pick up a couple extra just to eat?
Pumpkins are a true American vegetable, a favorite of the Aztec, Inca and Mayan people before becoming a staple of early European explorers and settlers in the New World. Pumpkins belong to the same family (Cucurbitacae) as gourds, melons and cucumbers. And, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, pumpkins are packed with beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that fights cancer.
If you're buying a pumpkin specifically for eating, the smaller ones are usually the best. If you're going to use it as a jack-o'-lantern as well, you can eat or freeze some of the pumpkin when you carve it, and then pickle the remaining rind when Halloween is over, provided that it's still in good shape. So, here's how to eat your jack-o-lantern:
Toasted pumpkin seeds are a healthy snack filled with zinc, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper and protein. They're also great in salads, muffins, bread, and in other recipes as a nut substitute.
Remove the seeds, rinse them in water to get rid of the stringy inner membrane, and dry them out a little on a towel. Flavor with coarse salt for a traditional taste, or let your imagination and spice rack run wild. Some options for flavoring designer seeds include: pumpkin pie spice; Cajun seasonings; ginger powder; garlic salt; curry powder; Tabasco; cinnamon; vinegar and salt. Once seasoned, bake the seeds on a lightly oiled cookie sheet (single layer thick) in a 250-degree oven for about an hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Or, my preferred method is to cook them in a spray-oiled skillet over medium heat on the stove top, stirring and shaking (the skillet, not your booty) constantly. On the stove top, they'll be toasted nicely brown in only about five minutes. Store in air-tight containers.
Although I bicycle all year long – even in the snow and ice of winter – the fall is my absolute favorite time to be out on the road on my rusty-but-trusty 10 speed.
I’ve also noticed that fall is probably the best time of year to buy a bicycle. If you’re looking for a brand new one, bike shops often discount their inventory in the fall to make room for next year’s models. But I’ve also found that fall is the best time to score some real deals on used bikes at thrift stores and yard sales; with summer now in the rearview mirror, everyone seems to be jettisoning their lightly used cycles rather than making room for them in the garage.
If you’re not mechanically inclined, buying a used bike can seem a little intimidating. But the risk is usually worth the potential reward: I frequently find used bikes in the $25-$50 range. With a similar amount invested in repairs and labor, that used bike can be rehabbed into one that would cost $250-$500 new. Of course many of them are vintage bikes from the 1970’s and 80’s, the likes of which you can’t buy today at any price.
Here are some of the most common mechanical problems to look for if you’re thinking about buying a used bike:
Flat/worn out tires and inner tubes. Dry rot is common in tires/tubes that have been sitting un-inflated for a period of time, so they often need to be replaced, rather than just inflated and/or patched. The good news is, new tires and tubes are usually pretty cheap and easy to install.
Bent wheels/rims. This is easy to evaluate before buying a used bike. Just spin the wheels, and if they wobble significantly when you spin them or if they’re so bent that they won’t spin at all without hitting the frame, then you have a problem. Diagnosing how serious the problem is – and how costly it will be to repair – is more difficult. It could just be a few broken or loose spokes, and a bike mechanic can fix it with minimal labor and parts. But it could mean you need a whole new wheel, which can get expensive and hard to find for some older bikes. Unless you know what you’re looking for, it’s probably best to stay away from used bikes that have wheels that are seriously out of balance (aka “true”).
Check the frame carefully. I’ve bought some used bikes simply because the frame was intact and well worth the price alone, even though all of the other components were worthless. Look for any signs that the frame (including the front forks) is bent, cracked, broken, or has been in an accident (patches for flaking paint can be a sign that it’s seen some collision action). Don’t buy a bike with a bent frame or any clear signs of frame damage; it probably can’t be repaired and will lead to further problems down the road (assuming it even gets you down the road).
Sure, everybody's green thumb seems to blossom with the first warmish day of spring, just about the same day the green blades of the daffodils pop up in the flowerbed. But by autumn, most fair weather gardeners have long ago hung up their hoes for the season and planted their butts firmly in front of the TV to watch football.
That's a shame, because in most parts of the country the Fall is the best time of year for all kinds of garden activities, including planting and transplanting my types of plants. It's also the time of year when you can save a bushel of cash on gardening equipment and nursery stock, and save even more by properly tucking in your garden and equipment for its long winter's nap. Here's how:
Great deals on end of season nursery stock:
In most climate zones, Fall is actually a better time of year than even spring to plant or transplant trees, shrubs, and many other perennial plants. The soil tends to be warmer which promotes root growth, and unlike with spring planting there's not the potential of a long, hot, dry summer facing the young upstarts. And, even though I'm an anti-lawnite, if you're going to put down sod, Fall is also generally the best and cheapest time to do it. Many nurseries dramatically discount their remaining container-grown plants and other nursery stock, both to avoid over-wintering them and to make room for the soon-to-arrive Halloween pumpkins and Christmas trees. I've found it's a great time to negotiate an even better deal by simply asking for an additional reduction on already discounted nursery stock.
When is a river not a river? When its buried beneath pavement.
For 80 years that was the sad fate of the Saw Mill River in downtown Yonkers, a city on the Hudson River half an hour by train from downtown Manhattan.
When the industrial stench from this tributaryknown to Native Americans as the Nepperhan, or sparkling little streambegan to overwhelm the downtown, city fathers in the 1920s decided to channel it underground through tunnels. For decades, it flowed below a huge parking lot.
No longer. Today, the Saw Mill again sparkles in the sunlight. And soon it will be surrounded by a magnificent, two-acre park. Its truly a river reborn.
At $18 million, the Saw Mill initiative may be smaller than riverfront revitalization successes in San Antonio, Providence or Cincinnati (recently profiled in this New York Times article. But this victory proves that whatever the size of the project, communities can derive enormous economic and environmental benefits from restoring their natural and cultural treasures.
Gardening and landscaping or, as I call them, the "soil sports are among my favorite pastimes. Its a chance to enjoy being outdoors and exercise both my green thumb and my passion for creative repurposing you know, finding innovative ways to reuse items that most people simply throw away.
There a bunch of different ways to reuse would-be throwaway items in the garden and yard, including a number of techniques for deterring plant loving insects and other garden pests by repurposing things that might otherwise in end up in the trash. These pest solutions are easier on both the environment and your wallet than toxic chemical pesticide. Did you know that, according to the EPA, 78 million U.S. households use home and garden pesticides each year, with chemical pesticide sales topping $9 billion annually? Thats a lot of dead bugs and a lot of dead president (AKA cash, bucks, greenbacks, lettuce, etc.)
Last fall, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $1.8-million grant to Scenic Hudson, a private regional land conservation organization in New York's Hudson River Valley, to permanently protect 10 farms, among them major suppliers to greenmarkets in one of America's fastest growing metropolitan areas. Under the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), farmers receive cash they can reinvest in their operations. In return, they relinquish the land's development rights, so it will always be available for agricultural purposes.
The fruits, vegetables, meats and other foods produced by America's small- and mid-sized farms have a major role to play in stemming the obesity epidemic and alleviating mounting concerns about food contamination and security. The food they supply is diverse, tasty, nutritiousand above all, local. With 97 percent of our agriculture based on these smaller farms, they are essential for sustaining the nation's $369-billion agricultural economy, bigger than the GDP of nearly 200 countries. Yet every year, the country loses 3 million acres of its best farmlandprimarily on family-run farmsa victim both of sprawling development and high land costs that put it out of financial reach of young farmers.