Defending the Green Gestapo

Carbon Cops - Transforming Energy Use

Well at least on TV! This is in response to Robert Tracinski’s recent opinion piece, The Seeds of the Global Warming Police State where he rails against global warming hysteria and environmentalist “eagerness to reach into the smallest details of our private existence and re-arrange our lifestyle to fit the austere requirements of their political ideology”.

He lambastes Australian home improvement TV Show Carbon Cops and other media as examples of green ideology gone too far, criticizes green legislative initiatives, and concludes as follows:

Australia’s “carbon cops” may be fictional, but they are the harbinger of a real attempt to use the power of the state to strip us of the accoutrements of prosperity: our light bulbs, our cars, our televisions, our freshly laundered towels.

Um, it’s just a TV show :-) . But let’s hear him out …

In a bizarre inversion of the typical American home improvement show, the experts in this show descend on the hapless homeowners to measure their “carbon footprint,” the amount of fossil fuels involved in the manufacture and use of every item in their house. The “carbon cops” are shown rummaging through a family’s smallest household items, searching for global warming contraband–and then scolding them for “polluting” the atmosphere with carbon dioxide.

Each week they don their orange monogrammed shirts to cordon off the toxic home of an Australian family. They arrive with energy-auditing gadgetry, sobering statistics, and lips and eyebrows curled in withering admonishment. They rate these people, shame them, then challenge them to do better.

What bizarre inversion? Making homeowners feel bad for their tacky taste, DIY incompetence or just plain ignorance in exchange for a free remodel and 22 minutes of fame is a standard formula, totally acceptable as “entertainment” in the Home Improvement TV industry. Reality TV is a faustian bargain at best and we all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Green television in particular has suffered from being boring and has failed to catch on, in spite of the weighty issues at hand.

In a medium that thrives on explosive hits, the merely smouldering issue of global warming is proving about as gripping as watching trees grow … This year we’ve already seen two well-intentioned environmental awareness shows come and go …
- smh article

Perhaps the Carbon Cops are trying to stir things up, be controversial for commercial crossover appeal? Hence the dayglo suits and police tape. It’s a gimmick. And going for some emotional shock value by making the family “feel bad about how they live, only in a smiling pleasant way” seems to be part of it, rightly or wrongly. “Blame, embarrassment and middleclass guilt are the key ingredients”.

As Tracinski points out, the “victims” (I prefer homeowners) are willing participants. As the sign up form explains:

Each household involved will have their home’s structure, appliances, vehicles and habits assessed for energy efficiency. You will then be supported and inspired to make physical and habitual changes.

So there you go – “supported and inspired” to change. But if you sign up for a show with the word “cops” in the name, don’t expect it to be “Carbon Crossing Guards”.

The goal of the show is to get behavioral change out of the participants and viewers. To educate and enlighten … but also to trigger a real change in the choices we make day to day. But for people to be motivated to change, they need to feel uncomfortable about where they are now (cognitive dissonance theory). And integrate new information, a better way of doing things, as a way to resolve that conflict. We may not like it emotionally, but Carbon Cops is doing exactly what they said they would do.

A couple of things “inconvenient truths” Tracinski failed mention. First of all, not everyone felt ashamed. Mom was mortified but dad was quoted as saying “the global warming scare is all bollocks anyway“. Secondly, Tracinski chose to ignore the show’s stated goal in the article he referenced: to show people “how easy it is for them to reduce their carbon emissions without having a huge impact on their lifestyle“. Probably because these facts undermine his assertions about the insidious nature of the environmentalist agenda.

Although green awareness has grown immensely over the last few years, legislation of some kind seems to be an inevitable course of action, if the global warming danger is as real as publicized. Behavioral change on a large scale is difficult to bring about. And as behavioral researchers note:

“you might be able to avoid the need to convince your target audience to change its behaviour altogether if you can create structural changes that bring about the same result”. Kline Weinreich illustrates this view with the idea that passing a law that requires all residential pools to have childproof safety fences would be more effective at combating drowning than attempting to change the pool behaviour of parents and their children.

The question then goes back to whether the environmental threat is real and how effectively legislation can reasonably combat that threat. Pardon my cynicism but the “liberty and prosperity” in jeopardy argument just doesn’t wash. Tracinski needs to get off his soapbox and “get real”. The liberal influencers are as affluent as the conservative ones and for all their talk about the issues (Al Gore & Global Warming, Bill Clinton and his sod roofs), have yet to give up their affluent lifestyles. It just ain’t gonna happen. The influencers can say what they want, but the decision-makers report back to the voters and middle America isn’t ready to support any kind of “Global Warming Police State”, now or in the near future.

Yes we will probably see legislation aimed at broad based reductions in carbon consumption. But on an individual level, we won’t see a lot of intrusion, just more of what we are seeing now. More green tax credits and incentives. And more “energy saving behavior” on the part of consumers because it just makes financial common sense, not because environmental activists say so.

By the way, Carbon Cops had a decent rating in its first week. So the Green Police must be doing something right – they got people to tune in instead of tuning out. Now they’ve just got to get people to want to change.

Product Recall: Thermador Brand Built-In Ovens Fire Hazard

Thermador Built-In Oven

BSH Home Appliances and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of 42000 Thermador Built-In Ovens Friday. Consumers are advised to not use the oven’s self-cleaning mode and contact BSH Home Appliances to schedule an inspection. Repair, if needed, will be at no charge to the consumer.

Incidents/Injuries: BSH Home Appliances has received ten reports of incidents including one which resulted in a fire that caused extensive property damage. No injuries have been reported.

Description: This recall involves Thermador® Brand built-in single ovens and combination models which have a conventional oven and a microwave. The model numbers of the single ovens are C271B, C301B, SEC271B and SEC301B. The model numbers of the combination models are SEM272B, SEM302B, SEMW272B and SEMW302B. The ovens have date codes between FD8403 and FD8701. The model number and date code can be found on the underside of the control panel.

For more details, see the Consumer Product Safety Commission press release.

Read Thermador’s safety notice about the matter. For enquiries, call BSH Home Appliances at 1-800-701-5230 between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.

Product Recall: Lasko ceramic space heaters

Lasko Ceramic Space Heater

Lasko Products has recalled 1.2 million ceramic heaters produced in 2005. These heaters are a fire hazard as “localized heating may occur in the power cord where the cord enters the base of the unit“.

Chances are you aren’t using your heater right now. Still Lasko advises consumers to stop using the affected heaters immediately.

As of the recall date, the manufacturer had received 28 reports of failed power cords, with six reports of minor property damage. No injuries have occurred.

The recalled models are the 5132, 5345, 5362, 5364, 5420, 5532, 5534, and 5566; all except the 5420 are “tower” heaters like the one shown above. You’ll find the model numbers on the bottom of the units or at the rear of the base of the heaters, which were made in China for Lasko Products Inc., of West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Source: Consumer Reports Home & Yard blog.

Check for your model and get full replacement instructions online at the Lasko Product Recall page or call Lasko Products toll free at 1-800-984-3311 for replacement.

Sued for bad reviews on Angie’s List – what happened? (Updated)

Back in March I wrote a post about homeowners getting sued for bad reviews on Angie’s List and have been wondering what happened … I hadn’t seen any follow up stories until reading Eric Goldman’s Technology & Marketing Law blog. Since then I’ve found more info and this post has been appropriately updated.

To recap, home improvement contractor Stephen C. Sieber ( SCS Contracting Group ) launched multi-million dollar defamation lawsuits against 2 homeowners who wrote negative reviews (with F ratings) on Angie’s List, as originally published in this Washington Post story.

So what happened? According to the recent John Kelly article, Sieber dropped the lawsuits against the home owners. The lawsuits (Sieber v. Mattera and Sieber v. Hammock ) were settled and dismissed without prejudice a month after filing meaning that they agreed to settle but without setting any precedents. Sieber could technically sue the homeowners again for the same reason. From answers.com:

A plaintiff is not subsequently barred from suing the same defendant on the same cause of action when a court grants a dismissal without prejudice of his or her case. Such a dismissal operates to terminate the case. It is not, however, an ultimate disposition of the controversy on the merits, but rather it is usually based upon procedural errors that do not substantially harm the defendant’s rights. It effectively treats the matter as if the lawsuit had never been commenced, but it does not relieve a plaintiff of the duty of complying with the statute of limitations, the time limit within which his or her action must be commenced. A dismissal without prejudice is granted in response to a notice of dismissal, stipulations, or a court order.

Meanwhile, Monica Hammock’s $83,000 civil lawsuit against Stephen Sieber for damage done during her home renovation is still ongoing.

Interestingly, it seems that Sieber has been representing himself in the proceedings as his lawyer is listed as “PRO SE”. Maybe business has been a bit slow lately? Lawyers are pretty expensive.

Sieber wasn’t going to initially sue Angie’s List (as reported in the Washington Post) but ended up doing so for “malicious interference”. He was upset with the “consumer alert” Angie’s List sent out about him and charges that it

“was used solely as a public relations ploy to gain more market exposure and revenue for Defendants, at the expense of the business and reputation of SCS Contracting Group and Stephen C. Sieber personally.”

“I’m standing up for all the service providers who this will not happen to, ever.”

You can see the full details of the lawsuit at www.angiegotsued.com.

Several Angie’s List principals were named as defendants in the suit (including Angie Hicks herself) but they were subsequently dropped. Sieber is still suing Brownstone Publishing however; Brownstone “does business as” Angie’s List. You can monitor the online court records by going to:

https://www.dccourts.gov/pa/

and searching by case number.

  • Sieber v. Mattera – Case # 2007 CA 002063 B
  • Sieber v. Hammock – Case # 2007 CA 001726 B
  • Hammock v. Sieber – Case # 2006 CA 006940 B – pending
  • Sieber v. Brownstone Publishing -Case # 2007 CA 002549 – pending

Broadsheet: Goldilocks and the Three Contractors

If you’ve ever spent time chasing landscape contractors for quotes, you will find the following post amusing.

… today I hit upon the perfect solution for getting the lowest bid for projects outside your home where you don’t need to be present for the estimate.

For her smart homeowner tip, read Goldilocks and the Three Contractors @ Broadsheet.

Humidity Sensing Fan Protects Your Bathroom from Mildew and Mold

The Broan Humidity Sensing Fan is a home improvement innovation (and Hanley Wood Most Valuable Product and AHR Expo 2007 award winner) that can help protect your bathroom from mildew and mold. The fan can be configured to turn on automatically at preset humidity levels, reducing the opportunity for mold and mildew to grow. The fan’s auto shut off feature also helps save power and money. Hands free operation.

Details: Broan Humidity Sensing Fan Model QTXE110S product information.

Transitional Style – the new black or just plain boring?

Transitional style design is an emerging trend gaining momentum in furniture and interior design circles. It is neither traditional nor contemporary but a blending of the two. Definitions for this vary …

Traditional with a twist. A bridge between traditional and modern. Postmodern. Contemporary for people who don’t like the word “contemporary.”
- McClatchy-Tribune article

Transitional style is hot because it

takes the stuffiness out of traditional styles and the coldness out of modern to create an environment that is personally meaningful.
- tidg.ca

Transitional style is clean, serene, minimalist, and inviting. Simple, uncluttered, and sophisticated. Timeless, classical, and tasteful.

Neutral Colors & Contrasting Textures

Colors are neutrals and earth tones – ivory, taupe, beige, and tan. If you don’t like the word beige (it got a bad rep in the last century), try vanilla, pewter, wheat or sandbar. Color is actually very important but subordinate to the neutral. Isolated splashes of color are common: “There may be bright orange, but only in the bookshelf or on a pillow or a piece of sculpture.”

This “absence” of color creates more opportunity to work with texture in terms of fabric choices for accents, etc. Typical transitional fabrics?

  • Chenille
  • Corduroy
  • Mircofiber suede
  • Leather
  • Cotton
  • Twill
  • Denim
  • Raw silk
  • Tweed
  • Woven reeds
  • Woven rope

- interiordesign.lovetoknow.com

Clean Furniture Design

Transitional furniture design combines both straight lines and curves.

The look balances both masculine and feminine attributes for a comfortably contemporary design. The scale of the pieces is ample but not intimidating. A lack of ornamentation and decoration keeps the focus on the simplicity but sophistication of the design.
- HGTV online

Which brings me to …

Comfort

Yes comfort. Transitional style is “inviting”. “Transitional is about lifestyle, not design for its own sake.”

Minimal, Tasteful Accessories

Carefully chosen. “Transitional rooms always have art – good art…” albeit in an understated context.

The new black? Or just plain boring?

See HGTV’s transitional style interior design portfolio for more examples. I like this slideshow better as it leans more to the contemporary. Boring or the new black? You be the judge. My verdict is that it’s smart. The smart homeowners decor choice, one that will both age and show well, especially if you are interested in selling your home in the near future. The trend may be to make a personal statement with your decor but …

Catlin worries these personal statements will date quickly and alienate future buyers. “You have to think how it’s going to translate for the next owners,” Catlin said. “You may love your dark green countertop, but the next owner’s favorite color could be yellow.”

That’s why Catlin advises homeowners who care about resale to choose more neutral colors for floors, countertops and other hard surfaces, using easily changeable paint and accessories to infuse personality.
- The hottest remodeling trends for 2011

Sounds transitional to me …

Are antibacterial household products breeding superbacteria? Or are we?

Concerns about antibacterial household products have been voiced over at Scientific American as the number and variety of antibacterial products continues to expand in the marketplace.

Body soaps, household cleaners, sponges, even mattresses and lip glosses are now packing bacteria-killing ingredients, and scientists question what place, if any, these chemicals have in the daily routines of healthy people.

Unlike these traditional cleaners, antibacterial products leave surface residues, creating conditions that may foster the development of resistant bacteria …

The scientists cite the old adage “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”; the bacteria left behind to reproduce are the ones with the greatest resistance. So you produce “stronger” bacteria that are not only resist the antibacterials but related antibiotics as well.

As bacteria develop a tolerance for these compounds there is potential for also developing a tolerance for certain antibiotics. This phenomenon, called cross-resistance, has already been demonstrated in several laboratory studies using triclosan, one of the most common chemicals found in antibacterial hand cleaners, dishwashing liquids and other wash products.

These products aren’t recommended by medical professionals, other than for people with reduced immune system capacity, nursing homes, etc. And studies indicate that antibacterial soaps don’t prevent disease any better than regular soap.

So why are antibacterial products on the rise? How did we get here? The trend started back in the the 1990’s in the bathroom with antibacterial cleaners. In 2000, respected organizations like the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association warned consumers of the perils of antibacterial products and advised the FDA to “closely monitor and possibly regulate the home use of antimicrobials“.

Of course, there are dissenting views. The Soap and Detergent Association has this to say on the matter:

Q. Do you believe that the expanding use of antibacterial ingredients in consumer hand and body wash products could lead to “superbugs” that are resistant to antibiotic drugs?

A. No. In the more than 30 years that antibacterial wash products have been used by consumers and medical professionals, we have not seen any evidence that their use contributes to antibiotic resistance. If there were a link between antibacterial use and antibiotic resistance, experts believe it would have been seen by now in settings, such as hospitals, where antibacterial products are used extensively to stop the spread of bacteria and antibiotic resistance is closely monitored. In fact, two independent hospital infection control researchers recently presented studies to the FDA showing that triclosan-based wash products controlled and reversed outbreaks of resistant bacteria infections. .

- SDA FAQ: Some FAQs About Bacterial Resistance From Antibacterial Wash Products

So what happened? Did no one listen? Are we all mindless pawns of the Soap and Detergent Association? I think not.

Unfortunately the American consumer is at war with all bacteria. According to the Soap and Detergent Association (too bad its acronym couldn’t spell SUD), more than three-quarters of liquid soap and more than a quarter of bar soaps on supermarket shelves contain triclosan, an antibiotic that kills most bacteria, both good and bad.
- livescience.com’s Bad Medicine

It would be easy to blame the marketing machine of the soap and detergent industry. But 75% of the liquid soap on the market is a lot of soap. If all the manufacturers ditched the antibacterials, we’d still be be buying just as much soap because we’d still need to wash our hands so demand wouldn’t fall. That’s not it.

Controversial as it may be, I believe that consumers like things the way they are. We look at the world and draw our own conclusions. If antimicrobials are good for hospitals, they must be good for us. I don’t need advertising to want an antibacterial product. The proliferation of antibacterial products is an evolution, from consumers selecting antibacterial products over non-antibacterial products when given the choice over time, time and time again. All the industry did was pay attention and give us more of what we wanted.

I believe the proliferation of the antibacterial products is also tied in with the psychology of cleaning – people actually feel better about themselves when they have a clean house. Some people really need that feeling but using good old-fashioned bleach is a pretty harsh way to get it!

Finally, antibacterial products are a “security blanket” of sorts, real or imagined. They protect our possessions (wet mattress anyone?), let us be lazy (you can wash those dishes later, much later) and enable our bad habits (you can chew on that pencil without fear now that it’s antibacterial).

I don’t buy a lot of antibacterial products. I’ve studied microbiology and molecular genetics. I’ve studied food hygiene. I’ve swabbed & tested stuff for a living. I should know better. But when it comes to my antibacterial bathroom and kitchen cleaners? To quote Charlton Heston, “from my cold dead hands“.

Probably because I’ve swabbed stuff for a living.

The last word:

In general, however, good, long-term hygiene means using regular soaps rather than new, antibacterial ones, experts say. “The main way to keep from getting sick,” Gustafson says, “is to wash your hands three times a day and don’t touch mucous membranes.”

Not that we’ll listen. Because it’s not just about “getting sick” anymore.

How I got on this subject: Antibacterial Cleaners Do More Harm Than Good on treehugger.com

Sound Proof Drywall: a high performance, low cost soundproofing alternative

Have a home theatre room that needs soundproofing? Want more privacy for (or from) mancave powertool experiments? Have kids with rock’n'roll dreams you can’t wait for them to outgrow? You can have it all and your peace and quiet too. The answer lies in using soundproof drywall where needed in your home.

Traditional soundproofing methods have been labor-intensive, lengthy processes requiring specialized knowledge. Soundproof drywall, such as QuietSolution’s QR-525 product is a significant leap forward in ease of use both for DIYers and home improvement / construction professionals. The benefits …

Ease of Use with Low Cost

QuietSolution soundproof drywall is “score, snap and hang” – no special training, tools or equipment required to install. Accessible for DIYers, an efficiency gain for professionals.

High Performance

A single layer of QuietRock QR-525 offers the same sound protection as 8 layers of standard drywall with a Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating of up to 72. QuietRock’s patented technology uses 3 layers of viscoelastic, ceramic and gypsum material but still manages to be “eco friendly” and fire-rated.

An Award Winner …

I’m thinking along the lines of QuietRock QR-525 soundproof drywall – a Hanley Wood Most Valuable Product award winner.

“Each of these products will make a strong impact on the way builders and remodelers do their job,” says Jean Dimeo, Editorial Director, ebuild and BUILDING PRODUCTS. “From improving efficiency to cost-savings, the winning products represent the best new products to enter the housing industry over the previous year.”

With High Profile Press

QuietSolution soundproof drywall has been featured on Holmes on Homes (video snip from QuietSolution website), the CBS Early Show, and HGTV’s I Want That.

Check it out. See complete QuietRock drywall product specs & information on the QR website.

Pier 1 Blue/Green Glassware Recall

pier1-glasses.jpg

Pier 1 has recalled its Blue/Green Dual Glassware line – specifically the tumblers, goblets, and margarita glasses. The danger? The glassware has been found to crack or break unexpectedly, presenting a laceration hazard.
So far Pier 1 has received 21 complaints including 1 actual injury.

This recall follows a May 8, 2007 recall for similar orange/red glassware.

Pier 1 has asked consumers to “stop using the glassware pieces immediately and return them to their nearest Pier 1 Imports retail store for a refund or merchandise credit”.

Here is the entire recall press release. Props: consumeraffairs.com.

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