Monthly Archives: March 2009

Vote on Spring Greening!!

I want your input! I have limited funds and time, and a lot of projects I want to accomplish soon! Spring is coming (although it is snowing right now). All of my apartment systems are working pretty well, and we are about to enter the easy warm days, where the heating system can rest a bit, and caulking and paint will actually cure outside! The common areas need a coat of paint, but it’s time to dream a bit bigger. Obviously gardening is top on my list of priorities (the ash we might get from Redoubt might help make it a good gardening year), but vote for the one item you think I should put effort and money into first!!
(the CSA share is a thought that I might find a way to have tenants share in a Community Supported Agriculture subscription and I could deliver the veggies to the apartment for them, the energy efficient appliances might include new dishwashers, coin-op washing machine, fridges).

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What makes it an eco-apartment?

Since I have recently been meeting with prospective tenants (and I have chosen one – my first consciously green tenant-landlord relationship!), I wrote up a 1 page explanation sheet to hand out to them. I also decided on a name – West 30th Eco-Apartments. My friends warned me against such niceties as “sweet earth eco-apartments”, and I rejected some people’s suggestion of “green apartments” as having too much ambiguity (are they painted green? On Green St.? Attached to a golf course? Wishy-washy green-washed green with a coat of low VOC paint and not much else?). I would have put a poll up here, but I did everything too last minute. Here is the explanation sheet:

What makes these eco-apartments??

We are committed to the protection of the environment. Every decision on maintaining, upgrading, and using the building is looked at from the angle of how this will impact the earth and the health of the people that live there.

Some of the things we have already done (in the first 6 months):

-Replaced the old water heaters with a new, much more efficient one
-Replaced light bulbs with compact fluorescents
-installed low-flow devices on faucets
-fixed drips and leaks to save water and energy
-had an assessment done for solar hot water
-weather sealed where possible
-installed an outdoor security light with daylight sensor
-provided on-site recycling services

Some of the things we are planning for the future:

-planting trees and gardens and setting up a compost pile
-installing solar hot water
-separately metering for electric so that tenants can keep track of their use
-an energy audit to find the most effective measures for saving energy
-installing more insulation
-painting, repairing, and upgrading the building with used or green products
-installing secure bike parking
-holding semi-regular, fun gatherings where tenants can come and socialize and discuss questions, concerns, comments, etc.

However, our behavior and use patterns are important too!
Things we encourage everyone to do:

-Turn off lights and appliances when not in use
– close windows when the heat is on
– use your programmable thermostat to turn the heat down when you are away or asleep
– wash in cold water and hang dry when possible
-garden
-let us know if there is a problem of any sort

Finally, we realize that it is our foremost job to provide you with a safe, comfortable, happy place to live. Please let us know if you have any suggestions that would make your life here better, and we will do our best to follow them!

No more squeaky-squeaky

I had my dryer repaired today. As I suspected, the rear drum bearing was shot. I called the repair-person because, truly, I’m too stressed to take on a fiddly repair. I’m not yet sure how much it is going to cost, but at least the dryer squeak won’t keep me awake at 10pm anymore! And delaying the repair was making me feel like a slumlord.

Environmental reasons for the fix: While tenants still desire to use a dryer (which they do – when I have packed the place with green tenants I will take a vote on chucking the dryer to make room for something else (drying rack?), until then I will offer the choice) it is, I believe, a greener option to fix the existing dryer than purchase a new one. Energy efficiency on new dryers is marginal at best, according to my reading. The best feature would be a sensor that shuts it off as soon as clothes are dry, but I think that is not a common feature of commercial/coin-op dryers.

I love public libraries

I’ve been going to public libraries semi-regularly my whole life. They are generally warm, inviting, comfortable, and sometimes I just can’t believe that they will let you take all those books home for free! You can get trash novels, those old Sandman graphic novel collections you remember so fondly from your college days, literature, books to help you fix your marriage, car, plumbing, energy use, books to teach you about physics (because, really, you slept through it all and its amazing you managed a ‘C’ in stat mech), and landlording (the legal s#$% still scares the c$%# out of me, but it is good to be informed!), books to teach your curious 6 year old about Hanukkah. You can read the latest newspapers or magazines from around the world. You can read the whole Narnia series to your kid and realize it is totally racist and misogynistic and non-pacifist, and Christian (even though you didn’t get that as a kid except the Christian part, and you hope your kid isn’t internalizing it now, and you can’t help keeping up a running commentary as you read) and yet, for some messed up reason, you still love it.

At my local library (luckily the flagship of the Anchorage Library system – the Loussac) there is free internet and a coffee shop with organic coffee and tea and coloring and puzzle tables for the kids and a really hoity room with leather chairs to read in and a great Alaskana collection.

My idea of the perfect community center is a library. If things got bad, and heat or power had to be rationed, I see a solution being warm, well-lit libraries open into the beginning of the night where families could gather and read and play and talk quietly and queue up for the internet before heading home to a bed with lots of covers and a hot water bottle. Sissy, perhaps, compared to a viking longhall, but then I am more of a bookworm than a drinker.

Green apartment for rent!

One of my tenants is moving at the end of this month, so there will be an open apartment for rent. It is a very nice looking efficiency – pergo floors and all. Lots of storage. Amenities include recycling service provided, garden space available, and the chance to have a say in and help with further greening, if so desired. A perfect place for a person interested in reducing their carbon foot print, or keeping it low. Close to bus stops and midtown amenities (REI area). If you know of anyone looking for a place that would be a good fit, let me know or have them contact me! I promise not to blog about them without consent 🙂 Details available on request, but most pertinently: available April 1, 2009, rent is $650 including ALL utilities, 1 year lease preferred. No water beds, cats ok (according to my landlording book it is important to make your position clear on these things – but who owns a waterbed anymore?)

Greener grass

I have spent my life moving around. As a child it was not my choice. As an adult, sometimes I have moved for a specific school or job or to be with good friends or significant others. Sometimes it is a case of searching for something missing where I am.

I am nearing the end of a 2 week family vacation in Hawaii to visit my dad. It is a very unfair comparison – Alaska right now is cold and snowy, and I am too embroiled, while there, with work and school and child raising and apartment greening to get out and enjoy it much. Here I have nothing better to do than suit up the kid and head down to the beach. The last time I lived in Hawaii (the year my son was born) I ran screaming at the end of that year back to Alaska – back to my friends and paying jobs and cooler temperatures – it was sweaty work carrying a chubby infant constantly against your skin! Ants swarmed to the milk stains on my nursing shirts. We lived miles from the stores and I hated all the driving, but didn’t have the energy to bike up the steep hill with the baby in the trailer. We were desperately poor and that led to some extra relationship tension. I was a new, stay at home mom and found it hard to make friends with other moms – I attempted to go to one Le Leche league meeting before my son was born, and the meeting place had moved – I didn’t know where. Of course, as we prepared to head back home to Alaska, I finally found Le Leche League and started to form friendships, Gil was offered additional work by the neighbor and had worked his way into the county lifeguarding business. But still, I was very relieved to be back in Alaska.

The thing is, Hawaii is so much easier to be green in. Temperatures are so reasonable that the need for insulation, heating, cooling, etc is pretty much nil in most places. Fruit and nuts and veggies grow year round and are widely available even if you don’t grow them. The big Island has developed geothermal power. Solar hot water works year round, and could be unassisited by back-up heating methods – but then, who needs hot water anyway! Solar cooking would also be viable here year round. I am sorely tempted!

Land prices are high, and jobs are fairly scarce. I prefer the big island, but volcanic eruptions keep you a bit on your feet, and vog is killing crops. Bus service in Hilo isn’t that great, at least last time I was there (my dad lives in Honolulu and bus service is excellent – you can go almost anywhere on the island easily!) But I am ruminating on it. I don’t want to keep moving my whole life – that is unsustainable. I’d have to learn a whole new set of gardening/growing skills. I’d have to leave behind friends so good they are like family, an excellent job with a great company, and I may be no more happy that the last time I tried to live in Hawaii. We’ll see. I don’t see myself leaving Alaska for the next 5 years, at least, and I rarely can accurately predict or plan for longer than that ahead!