How to Free Yourself from Gas at Home

the suburbs

When it comes to emissions we often think of cars and factories, but we can’t ignore the impact we can make at home. In much of the northern hemisphere houses are built with infrastructure supporting the burning of non-renewable fuels which destroy the planet. The decisions made by people who are now retired will cost us, but the faster we change houses to renewable the greater the savings for the planet and homeowners. But how can we make the change from subsidized gas to market rate renewables?

Over at the National Observer Seth Klein records how he switched his house from natural gas to all electric. He outlines the process and how one can save money and the planet at home by changing their energy source.

A couple of years ago, my family’s home — a 12-year-old, 1,400-square-foot, well-insulated duplex in East Vancouver — was heated with a high-efficiency gas boiler. The boiler produced hot water for both our direct water needs and for pipes that provided lovely radiant heated floors in the winter. We also had a gas fireplace in the living room we rarely used, and we cooked on a gas stove.

No doubt this conversion has also increased the value of our home, as future owners will not face the inevitable need to fuel swap down the road once robust climate policies are in place, and they will benefit from the upfront capital costs we assumed for the solar panels and heat pump.

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People Live Longer in Non-Profits

The COVID pandemic has revealed problems in our society which we will need to fix. Thankfully researchers are identifying what problems are fixable by looking for the cause. Long term care homes (LTCs) are one such area of our society that we can improve, and do so very easily too. It turns out the non-profit LTCs are safer places for people to live and that they will live longer in a place that puts people ahead of profits.

Let’s make all LTCs non-profits. The profit motive and the goal of caring for people don’t always go together.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed that for-profit long-term care homes had worse patient outcomes than not-for-profit homes. A new study found that of those for-profit homes, long-term care homes (LTCs) owned by private equity firms and large chains have the highest mortality rates.

“Financial firms are in seniors’ housing for what they can take from it, not .what they can contribute. This approach – and the prioritization of profits is what guides financial firms,” she said. “It’s at odds with the social and moral imperatives that underline the need to provide good homes, high-quality care and dignified environments for our elderly populations and the workers who care for them.”

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We can Save 200,000 Lives a Year Replacing Car Commutes with Bicycles

a couple, bicycles

A simple modification to our cities can save a lot of lives: add more and better bicycling infrastructure. Researchers looked into quantifying how many lives we can save by replacing car journeys with bicycle use and the results aren’t surprising, but will hopefully influence people. The harms vehicular traffic does to our bodies and our communities are well documented so the fact that using car less will save lives isn’t schocking. It’s great to see more evidence and analysis into how getting rid of cars will improve everyone’s well being.

Biking plays a significant role in urban mobility and has been suggested as a tool to promote public health. A recent study has proposed 2050 global biking scenarios based on large shifts from motorized vehicles to bikes. No previous studies have estimated the health impacts of global cycling scenarios, either future car-bike shift substitutions.

We found that, among the urban populations (20–64 y old) of 17 countries, 205,424 annual premature deaths could be prevented if high bike-use scenarios are achieved by 2050 (assuming that 100% of bike trips replace car trips). If only 8% of bike trips replace car trips in a more conservative scenario, 18,589 annual premature deaths could be prevented by 2050 in the same population. In all the countries and scenarios, the mortality benefits related to bike use (rather than car use) outweighed the mortality risks.

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Thanks to Mike!

New York City Bans New Gas Connections

tree with climate knowledge

New buildings constructed in New York City are not permitted to connect to natural gas for any reason. This makes NYC the largest city in the USA to do so and likely marks a shift in the country for even more cities to adopt a ban on new uses of the fossil fuel. To avoid catastrophic climate change we need to keep fossil fuel in the ground and with NYC banning new buildings from using the world-destroying product it will force the construction industry to adapt.

The measure already has support from Con Edison, a utility that provides both electricity and gas to New Yorkers. The grid “is well-poised to support the transition to heating electrification,” it said in a November testimony to city council. That’s because the grid usually sees peak demand during the summer when residents blast their air conditioning, it says, and electricity use is typically lower in the winter.

“New York City is taking a massive step off fossil fuels, paving the way for the rest of the state and country to follow,” Food & Water Watch northeast region director Alex Beauchamp said in a statement today.

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It’s Time to Talk About Wage Theft

Interview

Over at Popular Information they juxtapose two crimes that happened last year: the stealing of retail goods by one person valued between $200-$950 and the other crime by one corporation was the stealing of people’s money valued at $4,500,000. One got a lot of news coverage while the other did not. Walgreens kept their worker’s money by committing wage theft, a crime an employer can commit by not paying overtime, having workers work “off the clock”, misclassifying employee pay scales, or through other means.

We should be more concerned with the stealing of wages than the petty from of stealing consumer goods. In the USA alone wage theft is a 15 billion dollar problem (yes you read that right), and according to the FBI it’s more than the value of all stolen goods in property crimes.

A good way to not be a victim of wage theft is simply to talk to your coworkers about how much you earn for the work you do.

Just a few months earlier, in November 2020, Walgreens paid a $4.5 million settlement to resolve a class-action lawsuit alleging that it stole wages from thousands of its employees in California between 2010 and 2017. The lawsuit alleged that Walgreens “rounded down employees’ hours on their timecards, required employees to pass through security checks before and after their shift without compensating them for time worked, and failed to pay premium wages to employees who were denied legally required meal breaks.”

Walgreens’ settlement includes attorney’s fees and other penalties, but $2,830,000 went to Walgreens employees to compensate them for the wages that the company had stolen. And, because it is a settlement, that amount represents a small fraction of the total liability. According to the order approving the settlement, it represents “approximately 22% of the potential damages.”

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