Sunday, March 20, 2016

Picking up roadside trash

Trash from 3/4 mile of local roads (I removed the redeemables and recyclables).
For the last few years I have been walking around my neighborhood here in rural Maine picking up roadside trash every week.  While there is little to no trash on my small dead-end road with about a dozen houses on it, the moment I get out onto the more widely traveled roads I find a lot.  In fact, every week I fill a 15 gallon trash bag by walking about a half mile in each direction on the three roads that intersect the end of my road.  Generally, I find a lot of beer cans and bottles, miniature liquor bottles, cigarette packs, and general fast food packaging and other trash.  Here in Maine I can redeem most of the bottles and cans for 5 cents each so I often pay myself over a dollar a week.  The rest gets sorted into my trash or recycling binsDuring my walk this afternoon, I was thinking about all the reasons that I do this and I thought I would share them with my readers in the hopes that I can inspire some of you to follow suit and pick up trash in your neighborhood if you live in a neighborhood where outdoor trash is an issue.
  • Community service - I value my community, and Maine is known as "Vacationland" so it is important to keep our roads clean and attractive.
  • Environmental stewardship - 'nuff said.
  • Treasure hunt - as I walk searching for distinctive shiny or bright objects, there is an element of treasure hunting and the reward is often 5 cents.
  • Good exercise - I generally walk between two and 3 miles and the roads are hilly enough that I raise my heart rate and work up a sweat even on cold days.  It's not just walking but all the bending and stretching that makes it a good aerobic workout.  I often stray out into the fields on each side of the road where windblown trash shows up and there is some scrambling around to get there and back.
  • Visible activism - by being highly visible on the road and picking up trash I am hoping to inspire other people to follow suit, or at least raise their awareness of the issue.
  • Grateful neighbors - every now and then a neighbor will stop and say "thank you".  It's not the main reason I do this but it's nice to be acknowledged.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

I bought less than 40 gallons of gas last year and drove about 8000 miles!

2012 Chevy Volt
I bought my Chevy Volt back in May 2012 and have over 50,000 miles on it now.  I decided to review my records to see how much gas I have used and was pleased to find that in all of 2015 I purchased only 39.28 gallons of gas and drove about 8000 miles.  My average purchase was for 2.7 gallons because Chevy recommends that you only put in one third of a tank in to keep the weight down.  There's no sense in hauling around gallons of gas that you never use.  So my total expenditure for gasoline last year was $108.55.

My Volt uses around $40-45.00 worth of electricity a month, and in the summer that is more than offset by my solar array.  So for 5 months I am literally driving for free on sun power.  In the winter months when we have less sun in Maine my electric bill goes as high as $70, with most of that going to power the car.  In Maine over 30% of our electric supply comes from renewable sources, so the bottom line is that the carbon footprint of my car is negligible.  That is the main reason I own it.

Tor those that may be unfamiliar with the Chevy Volt, it is unique in the industry because it is an electric vehicle with a built-in "range extender".  My model has an electric range of approximately 37 miles under ideal conditions.  When the battery runs down a four-cylinder gas generator kicks in that maintains a battery level allowing the vehicle to continue driving at around 40 miles per gallon.  Since most of my driving is local, I rarely use gas.  The vehicle does turn on the gasoline engine generator in the winter occasionally to help warm battery when temperatures drop below 20°F.

I recently test drove the 2016 model Volt.  The vehicle has been completely redesigned although it it looks rather similar from the outside - with some sexy improvements to the style lines, the interior is quite different.  There are so many changes in its design that it is essentially a different vehicle entirely.  The driving experience was even more sporty than my model because the 0 to 30 acceleration time has been shortened quite a bit, so it literally surges forward and burns rubber if you tromp the accelerator.  This model has a rated 52 mile electric range and gets better gas mileage when in "range extender" mode.  

2016 Chevy Bolt
I am now struggling  with whether or not to upgrade to the new Volt or to go with the brand new all electric Chevy Bolt that will be released towards the end of this year.  This impressive vehicle has a range of over 200 miles per charge and will cost around $30,000 after the $7500 federal tax incentive.  It is amazing that GM has managed to trump Tesla and bring out an affordable electric vehicle well before the much-anticipated Tesla model 3 has been released.  The real issue for me is whether or not I want to deal with the range anxiety issue when taking a long road trip.  I have grown so comfortable with the idea that the Volt offers me a no-worry option of driving as far as I want without any concern that it may be challenging for me to accept the limitations of an electric vehicle range.  I sometimes take trips down to Boston which is around 170 miles away.  While there are more charging stations available in the city, it would be inconvenient to have to take many hours to charge the car up.  Not to mention having to take a cab or public transportation between the charging station and my desired location.