Calendar of Lessons & Guided
Wear & Bring
At Kayak Adventure, every day is
"Earth Day." Big news for me this week is that scientists can
now attribute weather events to climate change with methods
similar to those used by epidemiologists. An NPR interview with
Heidi Cullen of Climatecentral.org led me to a new favorite
source for climate change news. Read their article on February's
warmth and learn about the scientists working on the World
Weather Attribution team. Last year I met Andrew Revkin of Dot Earth, the NY
Times blog (2007-2016). Now a senior reporter for climate and
related issues for ProPublica, Revkin spoke about the
importance of sharing information to "help balance human
affairs with the planet's limits." His favorite websites
Watts Up With
In the spirit of sharing, here are some of Kayak Adventure's
"sustainable living" practices:
Reduce heating fuel use with efficient appliances, new
windows and insulation
In 2003 I replaced our old furnace with a fuel-efficient model.
This reduced annual heating oil consumption from 1390 gallons
to 860 gallons, saving a pile of money, in addition to reducing
carbon emissions. In 2004, I added 9" of insulation to the
attic, and reduced oil consumption to 715 gallons per year. In
2008-9 we wore extra layers of clothes, drank hot tea or did
work/exercise to keep warm, and consumed only 597 gallons. In
August 2015 I replaced all of the 75-year-old single pane
windows in my home with Harvey Energy-Star certified
double-glazed low-argon windows with a U-factor of 0.30 and
R-value of 3.33. For the Fall 2015 through Spring 2016 heating
season I used 569 gallons of oil and didn't have to wear extra
layers of clothes to keep warm! This spring I replaced an old
wood panel door in the basement with a fully insulated door,
did an energy audit that found all the air leaks in the house
and sealed them, including the basement rim joist, and replaced
two of five basement windows.
Seven years ago I replaced a fifteen year old top-loading
washing machine with a Whirlpool front-loader that uses an
average of 212 kwh/year of electricity (168% better than the
Federal standard), and about a third the amount of water. See
the EPA's EnergyStar
program before buying any new appliance, to make the most
earth-friendly decision. I line dry all my laundry, as there is
no such thing as an energy-efficient gas or electric dryer.
Turn down the thermostat
On winter nights I set the temperature at 58 degrees and
snuggle under a down quilt. In the morning, I turn it up to 64.
This feels cozy upstairs. Downstairs I wear a sweater and vest,
adding a light wool cap when needed. Warming up with a morning
yoga routine, and taking a brisk walk in the afternoon keeps
circulation moving. A hot cup of tea is my third line of
defense. When tempted to turn it up, I think about the 2030
global climate scenario - what are we leaving our children and
grandchildren? topsy-turvy weather, or a liveable planet?
In summer, the mature cherry, oak and ash trees in my yard
provide a living air conditioner that make temperatures ten
degrees cooler. During a hot spell I open windows only on cool
nights, and shut them as soon as the sun comes up. I use
pleated one inch thick "cellular" shades on most windows, which
act as excellent insulation, keeping the house cool on all but
the hottest days. We'll sleep on the first floor before turning
on an air conditioner. Going to bed after a cool shower and
shampoo help. Air conditioners add a heat load to an
over-stressed environment. I save mine for tenderfoot
Daylighting and nightlighting
When I start my day, I pull the shades wide open in the rooms
I'll be working in. Using natural light for illumination is
At night, I use strategically placed photovoltaic nightlights
to light my path through the house. They also act to keep mold
at bay. I count the bulbs I'm turning on, and use as few as
will safely light my tasks. All incandescent light bulbs have
been replaced with compact fluorescents or LED lights, which
use 75% less energy. My monthly electric bill ranges from
Reduce hot water use
I use only cold water taps, except once a day, when I wash
dishes, take a shower and do the laundry (if needed) in series.
In summer, I shower with solar hot water from our back-yard
hose. Heating water comprises 15-20% of a typical household
energy bill. Go
Solar for Free Hot Water, an article in Mother Earth
News, lets you evaluate an earth-friendly alternative. I
wash in cold water every morning to habituate to cold water
immersion, a practice that is a tested safety measure for
workers in cold water environments.
Drive wisely & consider a hybrid when you buy your next
In 2012 I decided to invest in my first new car, and chose a
hybrid 2011 Toyota Prius II. The informative dashboard display
was great motivation to change my driving habits, and I was
able to get 52 miles per gallon within the first three days of
driving. Some people think you can't put a kayak rack on a
Prius, but I carry up to three kayaks on my roof using Thule
aerobars and several types of saddles, sliders and J-hooks. I
still get 47 miles per gallon carrying kayaks!
Not everyone can afford to buy a hybrid car, so thanks to a
high school teacher who saw this web page, I've got a terrific
link to her students' suggestions to Reduce
Your Automobile's Impact on the Environment.
Minimize auto use
We plan ahead so errands can wait until there are at least
three things to do in the same geographic area. Combining
errands, or "trip chaining," helps improve air quality and
reduces traffic congestion. See Ten
Simple Steps to find out how easy it is to make an impact.
Use the Terrapass
carbon footprint calculator to find out what your impact is
from driving and flying. Having a measure helps you set and
reach a goal for reduction. My goal is for the Prius to sit in
the driveway three days a week, up from two days last year.
Using alternate modes of local transportation is healthier for
us, and for the air we breathe. I keep two bikes tuned and
ready to go for sunny day errands, or I put on a backpack and
walk to the local convenience store. I use Metro
North rail to get from Norwalk to Manhattan to visit
Photo: Our vegie garden grows in front, where a southeast
exposure gives best sunlight.
Use regionally based suppliers
A large portion of fossil-fuel use comes from transportation
for the goods we buy. Whenever feasible, I purchase from local
suppliers. Supporting them ensures a sound regional economy and
helps the Earth.
I harvest greens, herbs and fruits from my own garden from
April through December/January. In 2015, I succeeded in growing
all the produce I needed through December. My goal for 2016 is
to last through February, using crop covers and frozen or
canned produce. The just-picked sweet taste is unbeatable!
Follow this link to find a Farmers' Market in your area: Fairfield
County Farmers' Markets.
In the winter I suggest you look for "Connecticut Grown" or
"Local" produce at the supermarket. I read labels to choose
local producers for staples such as flour, eggs, tea and
sweeteners. Check out Local Harvest to learn
more. As a radical commitment to the Earth, I've forsworn
tropical produce, unless I'm visiting in the tropics. Think
about it - on average, produce grown in the US travels 1300
miles to reach grocery shelves. My mom taught me to drink four
ounces of orange juice in the morning to get my vitamin C, but
I get plenty from tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, kale, collards,
broccoli, cabbage, yams, raspberries, cranberries, watermelon
Travelling to kayak doesn't make sense when we live on the
shore of Long Island Sound, with its rivers, creeks, marshes,
estuaries and the Sound itself, all within a short drive for
coastal county residents. As an Environmental Educator, I
believe in getting to know one's local habitats in all seasons,
from pre-dawn to star-lit skies, in rain, fog and snow, as well
as sunny weather. Our locale has a rich diversity of marine
life, much of which you will only come to know through repeated
visits with patient and quiet observation. There's no need to
fly to Florida, Baja, or Alaska to find a rich natural
environment. Connecticut has 412 species of birds (see the CT
Ornithological Association for a checklist.)
We recommend A Field Guide to North Atlantic Wildlife
by Noble S. Proctor and Patrick J. Lynch for a guide to marine
mammals, seabirds, fish and other sea life. To find local
launch sites, check out the DEP's CT Coastal
I invite you to travel by train to East Norwalk's Metro
North stop, where I'll be glad to pick you up for any Kayak
Adventure lesson or trip. The station is an 11 minute walk from
my home office.
Car-pool to launch sites
Most trips meet at my home office and use the fewest vehicles
for the short trip to one of five local launch sites.
Reduce, reuse, recycle, re-think. Minimize waste.
I bring canvas bags when I shop, and choose products with
minimal packaging. I re-use #2, 4 or 5 water bottles, and store
left-overs in safely re-usable containers. See this Trusted.MD
article for information on re-usable plastic containers. We
use cloth napkins and rags rather than paper products. We
recycle plastics, metal, newsprint and office paper. All
vegetable scraps are added back to our garden, as are grass
clippings, autumn leaves, and tree branches that fall in
storms. This EPA website has many tips for source
reduction and reuse.
Reduce water consumption
Although we usually have plenty of water in Fairfield County, I
try to minimize personal use of water. Toilets use the most, so
I installed a Toto Eco-Supreme 1.28 Gallons Per Flush toilet to
replace a 1940's era one that used 5-7 GPF. My water &
sewage bills quickly showed a sharp decline. I keep showers
short, and don't leave water running when brushing teeth or
shaving. The EPA site, How to Conserve
Water, gives engineering and behavioral practices to help
use water effectively.
It doesn't make sense to water the lawn, as grass will bounce
back from a drought (bluegrass and fescue can survive about a
month without water). Follow these Lawn
Care Tips to Save Water During Drought to have a healthy
lawn in spite of erratic rainfall patterns.
I've installed two rain barrels to capture run-off from the
roof, which I use to water our vegetable and fruit gardens. In
times of drought, I save gray water from washing dishes to
water house and garden plants, a practice I learned from my
mom, who had a cistern at her island home in the Bahamas.
What's Your Impact?
To find out your impact on planet Earth, take this Ecological Footprint
Quiz. To evaluate your impact on climate change, use this
Footprint Calculator from The Nature Conservancy. Patrick
Gonzalez, a Nature Conservancy climate scientist,
says:"Each person can make a difference because one
small positive act multiplied millions of times produces
Lester R. Brown's book, Plan B - Rescuing a Planet under
Stress and a Civilization in Trouble, (2003) provided
well-researched information and insights which spurred me to
adopt major changes in lifestyle. Brown is President of the Earth Policy Institute.
His Plan B 4.0 was released in 2009. One Amazon
reviewer called it "The best book on building a viable
global future." To get an overview of the ecological
concept of sustainability, Mathis Wackernagel & William
Ecological Footprint, New Society Publishers, 1996 provides
a research-based, detail-filled framework. Another book I
recommend is Radical Simplicity
by my brother, Jim Merkel.
Updated March, 2017.
KAYAK ADVENTURE LLC of Norwalk, CT