How You Can Make Your Home More Green

How you can make your home more green

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Being a homeowner is both wonderful and challenging. Although you are responsible for everything in your home (including your yard), that gives you the right to make changes that those who rent cannot. If you don’t like something, you can improve it.

That’s also why you should be working on making your home more environmentally friendly. You have the power to go green in your house, and this can offer several benefits. Not only can you save money in the long run, you will do your part to protect our planet. It starts by reducing your carbon footprint.

By Jennifer McGregor, med student and vegetarian who is concerned about climate change. This is her first blog post for Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group.Read more

How our plug-in electric car changed our life

2015 Nissan Leaf - Our electric car changed our life.

We were surprised at how our two-year-old Nissan Leaf all-electric car changed our life.

When Rebecca and I got our 2015 Nissan Leaf in late May, 2017, we thought the biggest change in our life would be that we’d never visit a gas station again.

Surprise! The most important change was something we didn’t expect at all.

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Containment: a Movie Review – Current History, Future History, Stonehenge

David Kraft of NEIS, "Containment" cosponsor

David Kraft of NEIS, “Containment” cosponsor

Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, "Containment" cosponsor

Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, “Containment” cosponsor

Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group and Michigan Safe Energy Future recently hosted showings of the movie “Containment” at Kalamazoo Public Library and at Lake Michigan College’s South Haven campus. Beyond Nuclear and Nuclear Energy Information Service, represented by Kevin Kamps and David Kraft respectively, cosponsored the showings. Kamps introduced the movie. He and Kraft commented and took questions afterwards.

Containment” presents a stark picture of the devastation that nuclear power and its waste products inflict on real people and real places right now. It also imagines how today’s problems will haunt the distant future.

“Containment” brought us new information, expanded on and explained things that many of us thought we already knew, and raised questions few of us had ever considered.

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Palisades shutdown plan gets its first Michigan Public Service Commission hearing.

On December 8, 2016, Entergy Nuclear and Consumers Energy announced a plan to terminate their 15-year power purchase agreement. Both companies agreed that the PPA negotiated in 2007, when Consumers sold Palisades to Entergy, should end in 2018 instead of 2022. Since Consumers is the plant’s only customer, this agreement is essentially a Palisades shutdown plan.

Palisades Shutdown Plan Hearing, by Bruce BrownBruce

Palisades Shutdown Plan Hearing, by Bruce Brown

The closure, scheduled for October 2018, would come 13 years before expiration of the 20-year license renewal that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted Palisades in 2011.

But first, the Michigan Public Service Commission must decide whether to allow or to veto the Palisades shutdown plan. MPSC scheduled its first hearing in the matter for March 9 and told Consumers to publicize the hearing and invite people to attend and comment.

Shortly after Entergy and Consumers announced their Palisades shutdown plan, the Executive Committee of Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group passed a Resolution supporting the plan. The resolution has been uploaded to MPSC’s online docket as a comment. Attorneys have filed petitions to participate in the case on behalf of six different clients. I’ve looked at the case’s documents online, and it appears that the issue at question is how Consumers will pay for the PPA buyout. (Disclaimer: I’m not fluent in legalese.)

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Clean-energy quick-charging stations: How Michigan should use its share of the VW settlement.

Michigan’s electric grid is becoming progressively cleaner as the state invests in efficiency and in solar and wind potential, resources the state already possesses, as we reduce our dependence on out-of-state fossil fuels such as coal and gas. As Michigan considers how to support clean transportation with its share of the $2 billion set aside for electric car charging from the $18 billion VW settlement, it will be to our advantage to capitalize on our ever greener infrastructure that we already have and add more clean-energy quick-charging stations. Here are my thoughts.

– Ben BrownRead more

Tiny House Part Two


How large/small can you go in a tiny house and meet basic human needs?

While a tiny house maximum is often considered 400 square feet or less, what is the minimum square feet of space in a tiny house?

In our region, efficiency housing has been defined as 120 square feet for a single person and roughly double that for two people. Such housing could be seen as one type of tiny housing currently acceptable. Since there are currently four common ways to define/use a tiny dwelling it has been difficult to know how to set guidelines for tiny housing in Michigan. Other industrialized western countries are exploring the range of minimum housing while maintaining space for ADL’s.Read more

Ben’s Tiny House Part 3 – More Progress at Charles and Wallace

10.04.16… To Be Continued.

First of all, tiny houses are not for everyone. For many single or retired people tiny homes might offer these advantages… (and larger tiny houses in some situations might offer these to couples as well)

Bullet recap of Tiny House Homeownership Advantages:

  1. Makes safe space affordable from being trapped in abusive relationships.
  2. Option for privacy when multiple generations share same property.
  3. Space for solitude, contemplation or renewal.
  4. Reduction in retirement costs, time, expenses and upkeep compared to a large home.
  5. Opens housing market to people: those who work full time, but with minimum wage

    employment, those with college debt, new credit history, etc.

  6. Changes the economic power structure allowing more people ownership over indebtedness to


  7. Reduced costs allows better potential for financial savings.
  8. Smaller consumption of planets limited resources and easier to focus costs on efficiency and


  9. Even with minimal income can have greater financial security.

10. PEACE OF MIND with lower housing costs easier to sleep at night.

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Mary Ann’s Solar Installation

Here is a description of how I decided to install solar panels.

Mary Ann went with solar power

“Mary Ann’s Solar Installation” by Mary Ann Renz

Tim Tesar, photographer for Mary Ann's solar installation

Photos by Tim Tesar

Mary Ann’s Solar Installation, by Mary Ann Renz.
Photos by Tim Tesar.

Solar WindsEditor’s note: For all the compelling reasons Mary Ann gives for going solar right now, this is a good time for you to contact Sierra Club Michigan Chapter’s solar installation partner Solar Winds Power Systems. And here are more reasons: Solar Winds has been vetted by Chapter. Sierra Club members get a discount on their installation. And Chapter gets a donation.

When I was preparing to sell my house in Mt. Pleasant, the realtor had me fill out a form on which one question was “If you were going to continue to live in the house, what changes would you make to it?” I answered that I might install solar panels. It would have been a difficult venture there, since my house was shaded by large maple trees and the roof was mostly flat, covered with a rubber membrane.

However, my desire to reduce my carbon footprint persisted after my move, and so I was glad to realize that with my house in Kalamazoo, the roof facing south was, for the most part, free of shade, so it could make a pretty ideal space for installing solar panels.

I imagined, however, that it might be too costly for me to take action now. I figured I’d need to wait until I had saved enough money to afford a solar installation.Read more

Five Easy and Delicious Ways to Eat More Vegan in 2017

As someone who cares about the environment, you probably already know that animal agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, deforestation, and pollution. Environmental science also tells us that eating at lower trophic levels–in other words, eating plants, and not the animals that eat those plants—will always be much more efficient and preserving of the Earth’s resources.

And there are many other reasons to avoid animal products, including the meat industries’ horrific cruelty to the animals themselves, and widespread labor abuses.

The good news, however, is that every meal and ingredient you “swap” from animal- to plant-based is a win for the planet, the animals, and your health.

Below are five easy ways to start. You can buy most of the products listed at any supermarket, but you’ll find the best selections at your friendly neighborhood health food store. Also, be sure to check out your friendly local veg group—like Vegan Kalamazoo, Vegan Grand Rapids, Veg Lakeshore, and Veg Michiana. You’ll meet many other environmentally concerned (and fun!) people, and get great recipes and tips.Read more


Day of Action against Denial

Mary A. Colborn, Climate Action to Take Today

Mary A. Colborn, Climate Action to Take Today

If there ever was a time when your participation, your voice is needed, that time is now. Senate confirmation hearings will begin this week on Capitol Hill for the cabinet nominees of President-Elect Donald Trump.

Never, even in George W. Bush’s presidency, has such an alarming cache of climate change deniers been selected to lead our governmental agencies. Each one has ties to the fossil fuel industry or has voiced climate change denial rhetoric, like Rex Tillerson, nominee for Secretary of State, who just resigned as CEO of Exxon-Mobile and took home over $170 million in compensation and Scott Pruitt, who has fought regulations put forth by the very agency he is slated to lead.

With a Republican Senate, these selectees will be confirmed without delay, in spite of significant concerns with the vetting process used by the Trump transition team or lack thereof. Many of these nominees have failed to sign ethics agreements and many have significant financial holdings that have not been properly assessed for conflicts of interest or ties to foreign entities.

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