Midcoast Green Collaborative Forum

April 11, 2009

Become an author on this forum.

Filed under: Question — Topher @ 12:31 pm

We welcome contributors to this forum.

If you would like to be able to post new topics on this forum, kindly leave a comment here.  Please include some information about yourself, such as if you are a member of the Midcoast Green Collaborative (not required).


May 8, 2009

Energy Expo 09

Filed under: Question — joanofacre @ 7:38 pm

Post show

Expo 09

What work/ didn’t

Didn’t do exit poll: hand them out to entering people along with booklet
8 exhibitors have not paid
Exhibit check in; badge, contact, check out, procedure,
layout should be alphabetical
Put booth numbers on curtains; layout on last  page- for latest changes.
Electrical power issues must be improved. (last row is powered by solar from outside.)
Need cash box/draw recites for better notes.

Need more pipe and drape
Booth sizes were bigger than expected ??
– should be clarified or standardized

Do a better floor plan, with real 100-ft tape-measure.
Publicity could be been earlier ?? (started earlier)
-need media schedule-(missed home power dead line)
-send coastal journal weekly
Promote more as educational + stuff for kids
Green cafe was good
How do we name it? Big banner
maybe a banner across main street- samuel will investigate
Need to have lecture space set up on time
Tell exhibitors where to get extra chairs (part of check in)
Exhibitor registration form – redone- and pay full in advance or no show.

April 13, 2009

Federal budget at a glance.

Filed under: Question — Tags: — Topher @ 1:43 pm

A poster (or flash based) of the 2009 federal budget.


April 11, 2009

Hearing for Renewable Energy Resources Act

Filed under: Information — Tags: — Topher @ 3:41 pm

Public hearing for the “Renewable Energy Resources Program” (Feed in Tariff) legislation:

1:30 pm, Tuesday, April 14

Utilities and Energy Joint Committee’s hearing room, Room 211, Burton Cross Office Building, Augusta.

Come and Support The Bill!

Energy Star certified home loans.

Filed under: Question — samuelfood @ 12:13 pm

Here is an interesting money saving opportunity for reducing your monthly mortgage payments and saving money on fuel. Make your home an Energy Star certified home and refinance with the new Gov. program, attached.


North Carolina town prints it own currency

Filed under: Conversation, Information, Philosophy — Tags: — samuelfood @ 12:08 pm

Samuel Kaymen has sent you a story from Democracy Now!, a daily independent radio and TV news program:

We take a look at how one North Carolina town is trying to become more self-sufficient by moving toward being able to feed, fuel and finance itself. The town of Pittsboro houses the nation’s largest biodiesel cooperative, a food co-op, a farmers’ market and, most recently, its own currency, the Pittsboro Plenty. Pittsboro is one of a number of communities across the country printing their own money in an attempt to support local business. [includes rush transcript]

To read, listen to, or watch the whole story:

April 10, 2009

Sustainability Post #43 – Maintenance.

Filed under: Conversation, Philosophy — Tags: , , — Topher @ 10:33 am

[From a discussion on making a house maintenance free, and a comment that humans were the weak link in ensuring energy efficiency]

To my mind, the STRONGEST link is the human. Humans are the best multi-purpose machine yet devised on this planet. By orders of magnitude. An empty house, even without any need to accommodate humans and their needs, is doomed to die in short order. A house loved by humans can potentially last as long as that love lasts.

One of the characteristics of humans is that they get better through practice and repetition. Having a house which needs periodic maintenance trains and encourages the humans to look after it. If a house makes no demands on its humans, they will come to ignore it, and it is doomed. Furthermore, the next house those humans occupy is also in for a hard time.

For example, look at the houses around you, some will be wood, and need paint, some will be mostly ‘maintenance-free’ siding plus some painted trim. Count the percentage of wooden houses which need paint, and compare to the percentage of sided houses which need paint. If your experiences matches mine, the latter will be a larger number, and the condition will be worse.

March 15, 2009

Sustainability Post #42 – Carbon per Dollar

Filed under: Conversation, Information, Philosophy — Tags: , , — Topher @ 10:36 am

Here is an article which examines the carbon footprint as a function of economic production.


February 26, 2009

“The Story of Stuff”

Filed under: Conversation, Philosophy — Tags: , — Topher @ 11:57 am

School board assailed for decision to bar video “The Story of Stuff”
The Missoulian, Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The Missoula County Public Schools board of trustees has been severely
criticized since their decision that a high school teacher violated
school policy by showing “The Story of Stuff,” a video discussing the
true costs of overconsumption and pollution.

February 19, 2009


Filed under: Question — Topher @ 1:45 pm

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

February 5, 2009

Blogs, Forums, Bulletin Boards, et al.

Filed under: Conversation, Question — Tags: — Topher @ 8:33 pm

This post is place for members of the Midcoast Green Collaborative to leave their comments on what they would like to see in a communication media for the group. We will continue to use e-mail for urgent or time critical messages.

Some History: I first used what was then called a news system in 1986, compu-serve called them bulletin boards. With the advent of the web in the early nineties, such things started moving over to the web side of things. They have become quite elaborate over the years, but the basic premise remains. Leave a note, have other respond to it, and keep it all for posterity.

I created a community on LiveJournal last year, so that the Collaborative members would have a place to do this for our little group. Many people complained that it was to difficult to use, and insisted that wordpress was far superior. So, I moved everything from the livejournal over to wordpress.

So, now I am being told we need to change again, and so please put your thoughts here.

Thank You Kindly.


January 23, 2009


Filed under: Information — Tags: — Topher @ 3:13 pm

Local TV news coverage of our efforts to make interior storm windows.


Congratulations to all involved.

Request for naming help.

Filed under: Conversation, Question — Tags: , , — Topher @ 12:48 pm

One of the initiatives that the Midcoast Green Collaborative is working on is promoting the idea of growing your own vegetables (in summer and even in winter, under some protection). There are people in Maine who are growing all their own food, all year round, eating fresh greens from the garden in January.

We are looking for a catchy name for this practice, akin to the Victory Gardens during World War II.

Anyone have any suggestions?

Request for ideas.

Filed under: Question — Tags: — Topher @ 11:45 am

The Midcoast Green Collaborative is expanding our Midcoast Sustainable Energy Expo to include all sorts of green ideas, and are renaming it the Midcoast Sustainable Living Expo.

We are looking for exhibitors to fit in with this new theme. Do you know of a (preferably local) commercial or non-profit group that you think would fit in? Make the suggestion here, to a member or email midcoastgreencollaborative@gmail.com

Thank You Kindly.

January 18, 2009

Sustainability Post #41 – Thought.

Filed under: Philosophy — Topher @ 4:09 pm

I have heard:

“I am doing all I can to be green”

“I am as green as I can afford”

These all ring hollow for me. Yesterday, I found a phrase that really said what I aspire to:

“I will be greener today, than I was yesterday.”

January 15, 2009

Sustainability Post #40 – Blowing In Insulation

Filed under: Information — Tags: , , — Topher @ 1:17 pm

I am often asked what energy improvements homeowners can make themselves. I am now here to tell you that blowing cellulose insulation into your walls is one of those things. While blowing insulation into an attic is a common do it yourself project, this is a job which is often recommended for professionals only, but Mainers are skilled and resourceful people and if I and my sweetie can do it, so can others. This is not intended as a how-to, but rather as an inspirational article.

Infrared picture of house, before

Here is a picture of our house, taken with an infrared camera (one of the tools we use for energy audits). One of the things you will notice is that the windows ‘have ears’, as my sweetie put it. That is, there are warmer patches visible around the top and bottom of each window. This is an indication that the insulation is lacking in those areas. The exact reason for that is related to the unusual way my walls were constructed, something called a Larsen Truss (invented by Jim Larsen). The walls are about a foot thick and contain a lot of insulation. However, when the house was built the insulation contractor failed to fill some areas, particularly around the windows. When I turned the infrared camera on those areas the problem of cold spots my sweetie complained about, became immediately obvious. With all these picture cold is black, then purple, and orange, with yellow and white being the hottest. The temperature in the upper corner is for the spot where the cross hairs are, and the temperature scale is at the bottom. Exact temperatures aren’t important here, we are looking at relative differences.

For other houses the problem may be different. Old houses probably started life with no insulation in the walls. If nothing has been added since, then they are prime candidates for this technique. All the empty space in the walls will need to be filled with insulation.

tud bay missing insulation

Here is a picture of one of the places where I could use some more insulation (taken from the inside). As you can see there is a large space here, more than can be explained by settling. So, the job is to fill that space with insulation. Insulation can be blown in from the outside, or from the inside. The choice comes down to which will be easier to get to, and easier to patch once done. For me, the interior is not painted yet, so going from inside was an easy decision.

Blowing cellulose insulation is a messy dusty job. So the first thing was to cover as much of our stuff as possible, since it all needed to be moved away from the walls to gain access, We moved it to the center of the room and draped it with cloth, and plastic sheets. I also got my respirators out; dust masks are only marginally useful, respirators with filters are recommended. Safety glasses, and grubby clothes are also a necessity. I also planned on us eating out of the house for a few days. I cut the holes in the wall with a 1 inch hole saw in an electric drill.

We rented an insulation blowing machine at a local rental place. The insulation was acquired at a home improvement store (which often rent or lend blowing machines as well). The machine is heavy, so I was lucky to have a neighbor to help move it into place. Sane people would be doing this job on a calm spring or fall day and will have the machine outside. Being the dead of winter, I put it inside. It came with fifty feet of hose, a nozzle for the walls, and a remote switch to control it. The bag label provides some advice on how much insulation is needed to acheive a given R-value for 1000 square feet, but since I didn’t really know how much space I had, I just took a wild guess. And then went back later for as much again.

Stud bay after filling with insulation

I ran the hose and remote switch, my sweetie filled the hopper with cellulose from the bag, and tried to keep the hoseand remote cord from getting too tangled. It would have been much harder or impossible with only one person. The machine had a control to set the air-insulation mix, I found that full open was the best setting for me. The main trick was knowing when the cavity was filled. If I left the blower running too long, the nozzle filled up and needed to be cleaned out (having a short dowel to hand helped take care of this). It took an awareness of the sound from the walls as well as sound of the blower on the machine to know when the space was full. After I had gotten about a quarter of the job done, I was able to get each bay filled with few issues. Here is the same wall as the previous picture, only this time properly filled with insulation. The holes were then filled with spray foam insulation to get a nice vapor seal. The extra was sliced off flush with the wall. Subsequently they will be patched over probably with drywall compound.

The mess can be kept to a minimum by making sure that the nozzle remains in the wall until the blower has come to a complete stop. Removing a little before, or if it seems clogged can end up splewing dusty insulation everywhere. The insulation contains borates to retard fire and pests, and it is not something you want up your nose.

Infrared picture of house, after

Here is a picture of the house after all the work was done. Note that there are still some places that didn’t get fixed (under the center windows for instance) do to accessibility issues. On the whole though the entire house is mostly a uniform color. Since the camera adjusts to a given temperature range, this is the appropriate result. The fact the temperature is 17 degrees lower on the after picture is just an indication that it was colder outside that night.

The whole project (not including prep and clean up) took about 10 hours (spread over two days) and we put 13 bales of cellulose insulation into the walls, which the chart on the package says would be enough to do 722 square feet of 2 x 4 walls (to achieve R-13). For this house, we took perhaps 180 square feet of area from around R-2 (no insulation) to R-45. This should amount to 12 Million BTUs saved every year, equivalent to about 85 gallons of fuel oil. At today’s price of $2.47 per gallon, that amounts to 210 dollars. The cost of the project was as follows:

Blower Rental 1 weekend $55.00 $55.00
Cellulose insulation 13 bags $11.30 / bag (including tax) $146.87
Spray Insulation 1 can $10.30 / can (including tax) $10.30
Total $212.17

So, a simple payback of about 1 year. That is, I could have bought oil this year, or for the same money made this fix, and saved this amount every year from now on. Of course, all situations are unique, so another house would get different results, however for houses without insulation in the walls, this is almost certainly a huge win.

Infrared picture of front door

Next Project

This picture highlights my next project. This is my wooden front door, complete with storm door. As you can tell it is warmer than the (admittedly high-efficiency) window right next to it. It is therefore losing a lot of heat.

November 25, 2008

Sustainability Post #39 – EPA and CO2.

Filed under: Information, Philosophy — Tags: , , — Topher @ 4:05 pm

Friday is the last day to voice your opinion on whether the EPA — the Environmental Protection Agency — should regulate carbon dioxide pollution, the primary cause of the climate crisis.  This is a big deal.

The EPA is taking public comment before making a ruling.  Send your message in and it will appear on the EPA’s website, and be part of the public record.

Of course, special interests — like the oil and coal lobbies — are working overtime to defeat a positive ruling and have already gotten thousands of comments submitted in opposition.

Submit your public comment to the EPA here:


Here is mine:


The EPA, as the premier overseer of environmental public goods, should understand that carbon dioxide is a important part of breathable air.  The human body regulates breathing through the concentration of Carbon dioxide in the blood stream.  Changes in the the environmental levels of carbon dioxide could have a drastic effect on human health.  As such, even if there is no issue with global warming, the EPA’s mandate would require it to monitor and if necessary regulate the release of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere.

Thank You Kindly,

Topher Belknap

Sustainability Post #38 – Bumper Sticker

Filed under: Philosophy — Tags: , — Topher @ 2:45 pm

“Think Globally, Eat Neighborly”

November 20, 2008

Sustainabilty Post #37 – Quotation

Filed under: Philosophy — Tags: — Topher @ 11:03 am

[From an email from the Rocky Mountain Institute, too good not to share]

The early bioneer Bill McLarney was stirring a vat of algae in his Costa Rica research center when a brassy North American lady strode in.
What, she demanded, was he doing stirring a vat of green goo when what the world really needs is love? “There’s theoretical love,” Bill replied, “and then there’s applied love”—and kept on stirring.

At Rocky Mountain Institute, we stir and strive in the spirit of applied hope. Our people work hard to make the world better, not from some airy theoretical hope, but in the practical and grounded conviction that starting with hope and acting out of hope can cultivate a different kind of world worth being hopeful about, reinforcing itself in a virtuous spiral. Applied hope is not about some vague, far-off future but is expressed and created moment by moment through our choices.

Applied hope is not mere optimism. The optimist treats the future as fate, not choice, and thus fails to take responsibility for making the world we want. Applied hope is a deliberate choice of heart and head. The optimist, says RMI Trustee David Orr, has his feet up on the desk and a satisfied smirk knowing the deck is stacked. The person living in hope has her sleeves rolled up and is fighting hard to change or beat the odds. Optimism can easily mask cowardice. Hope requires fearlessness.

Fear of specific and avoidable dangers has evolutionary value. Nobody has ancestors who weren’t mindful of saber-toothed tigers. But pervasive dread, currently in fashion and sometimes purposely promoted, is numbing and demotivating. When I give a talk, sometimes a questioner details the many bad things happening in the world and asks how dare I propose solutions: isn’t resistance futile? The only response I’ve found is to ask, as gently as I can, “Does feeling that way make you more effective?”

To be sure, mood does matter. The last three decades of the twentieth century reportedly saw 46,000 new psychological papers on despair and grief, but only 400 on joy and happiness. If psychologists want to help people find joy and happiness, they’re looking in the wrong places. Empathy, humor, and reversing both inner and outer poverty are all vital. But the most solid foundation we know for feeling better about the future is to improve it—tangibly, durably, reproducibly, and scalably.

At RMI we’re practitioners, not theorists. We do solutions, not problems. We do transformation, not incrementalism. In a world short of both hope and time, we seek to practice Raymond Williams’s truth that “To be truly radical is to make hope possible, not despair convincing.” Hope becomes possible, practical—even profitable—when advanced resource efficiency turns scarcity into abundance. The glass, then, is neither half empty nor half full; rather, it has a 100 percent design margin, expandable by efficiency.

Cofounder, Chairman, and Chief Scientist

November 12, 2008

Sustainability Post #36 – Shitakes.

Filed under: Conversation — Tags: , — Topher @ 9:31 am

It took 2.5 years but it looks like we are finally getting mushrooms from the bit of inocculating we did. My uncle had a large bag of mushroom spore, but no good trees. I, of course, have lots of trees, many in bad shape. So we cut one down; got his truck stuck; (who buys a two wheel drive truck in Maine?); winched it out; and the logs up drilled holes; added mushroom spore; sealed with wax; and ‘planted’. Then we waited. And waited.

Today, I went out and saw a number of mushrooms on one of the logs. The others had similar growths.  a quick sanity check on the Internet confirms that we have shitakes. Woot!

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