Saturday, February 26, 2011

What the Heck is in Toothpaste?

Have you guys ever asked yourselves that question? Because up until now, I had never even thought about it. "Toothpaste? It’s blue, has baking soda to whiten your teeth, spearmint for fresh breath, fluoride for your enamel,… and that’s it."

Then I thought, we all a bunch of different toothpastes in our house, my daughter has the no-fluoride-baby-kind because she is under two. My son has the electric-pink-strawberry-kind with some kind of Disney cartoon character on it because we want him to want to brush his teeth. But do I know toothpaste really is? No idea. I use it twice a day, every day.

Will you promise to love it and use it for now and the rest of my life? I do.
You may now brush your teeth.

Maybe I should kind of figure this out.

So I bought the “all natural” Jason’s toothpaste to compare it to the usual stuff I use and did a little research about the various ingredients.

So first off, for both toothpastes, the entire list of ingredients is only listed on the box. The tube of Crest toothpaste itself only has the “active” ingredients. On the Jason toothpaste it just lists all the ingredients under the same category, no active/inactive.

The ingredients are in italics, with my detective work in brackets. Of course, this is my biased, unscientific research on all this.

Amazingly, the ingredient list is vastly different from one brand to another, besides water they only have two ingredients in common, silica and glycerin.

Anyway, here it goes:

Jason Powersmile, All-Natural Whitening Toothpaste
Calcium carbonate [Calcium supplement]
Aqua (purified water) [Enough said there]
Vegetable glycerin [Natural plant product usually made with soy and coconut oil, used to add smoothness and provide lubrication. Also used as sweetener]
Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate [Natural plant extract made from fatty acids in coconut, used as foaming agent]
Mentha Piperita (peppermint oil) [Natural plant extract used for taste and fresh breath!]
Carrageenan [Natural plant extract made from seaweed used as a gelatin stabilizer and thickener]
Aloe Barbadensis (organic Aloe Vera leaf gel) [Natural plant extract used for antimicrobial properties and fresh breath]
Bambusa Arundinacea (bamboo stem powder) [Natural extract used for antiseptic and whitening properties]
Carum Petroselinum (parsley extract) [Natural plant extract used for antiseptic, reduces inflammation, boosts circulation for gums]
Perilla Ocymoides seed extract [Also called beefsteak plant, natural plant extract used for fragrance and antiseptic properties]
Sodium bicarbonate [Mineral compound with antiacid properties]
Silica [Mineral abrasive used for removing plaque and stains]
Stevioside [Natural sweetener made from the leaves of the Stevia plant]
Citrus Grandis (grapefruit seed extract) [Natural extract used for antifungal and antioxidant properties]


Crest Whitening- Plus Scope
Active ingredient
Sodium fluoride [Used to prevent cavities and strengthen tooth enamel. Classified as toxic if ingested. Can cause dental fluorosis in children, which alters the look of teeth. Ingesting several ounces of pure fluoride can lead to poisoning and death for adults]

Inactive ingredients
Sorbitol [Artificial and sugar-free sweetener, also used to add smoothness]
Water [Same as Jason’s]
Hydrated Silica [Same as Jason’s]
Tetrasodium pyrophosphate [Chemical thickening agent]
Flavor [Geesh… this could mean anything and everything. Your guess is as good as mine]
Sodium lauryl sulfate [Chemical emulsifier and foaming agent. Can be linked to canker sores due to dryness properties and harsh chemicals]
Disodium pyrophosphate [Chemical preservative]
Alcohol (0.7%) [Used as odor-preventing and antibacterial]
Xanthan gum [Used as a thickener]
Sodium saccharin [Chemical artificial sweetener, delisted from the carcinogenic list since 2000, now deemed safe for human consumption]
Glycerin [Vegetable or animal? Sweetener. Also used to add smoothness and provide lubrication]
Carbomer 956 [Used as a chemical thickening and emulsifying agent]
Poloxamer 407 [Chemical dissolving agent, can be linked to high cholesterol]
Polysorbate 80 [Chemical emulsifying agent]
Sodium benzoate [Also called E211, used as a preservative. Can be linked to hyperactive disorders when found with artificial coloring. Carcinogenic substance when found with Vitamin C]
Cetylpyridinium chloride [Antiseptic agent, prevents plaque and helps fight gingivitis. Can be toxic if swallowed]
Benzoic acid [Another form of sodium benzoate, see above]
Titanium dioxide [Also called food coloring E271, classified as carcinogenic]
Blue 1 [Artificial food coloring, can be linked to cancer, studies in progress]

All in all, I am not sure what to think about all this, to tell you the truth. We use not only toothpaste, but mouthwashes, rinsing solutions, and strips to whiten our teeth. All of these things have similar agents and ingredients than the Crest toothpaste. Millions of us use those things every day and have for quite a while.

Does it make it ok?

I do believe in medical testing, EPA findings, and the overall medical and health fields.
If they say it’s ok, it’s ok right?

Except that they change their minds in terms of what is deemed safe and hazardous, they revise their findings, and reevaluate their standards. As one should in science.

So yes, the all natural toothpaste is more expensive ($5.59!). But how often does one need to buy toothpaste? It would probably cost my about $10.00 per year to upgrade to the all natural kind. I think I can afford that. I think for now I’ll stick to the more expensive and less threatening-looking toothpaste.

Seaweed extract gel (left) is more alluring to me than titanium dioxide (right).


By the way, here is an interesting link I found listing all the various food additives found in processed food and cosmetics, with a brief description of each one and an associated health rating. Very useful and quick way to see what-is-what when looking at weird ingredients:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Worst Food Contest

Ok, here is your assignment people.

This lovely treat could win all three categories
Go to your local grocery store and look for the most nasty-looking, disgusting-sounding product you can find.

Cuddos for finding bright colors, odd shapes, and crazy packaging. The longer the list of ingredients, the better. And of course bonus points for ingredients that are hard to pronounce or consist mainly of numbers and consonants.

Take a picture of it if you can, and tell us what’s in it!

Categories will include:
1. Most ridiculous and wasteful packaging
2. Most unnatural looking
3. Most likely to give you a heart attack and/or cancer

I will look myself and post the most awesomely horrible food I can find.
We'll regoup later and see what we find. Check in next month to see what we come up with.

Good luck all!
Now go!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Running for Beer Drinkers

I swear to you I am not a runner. I am built more like a Jeep than a sports car. I always considered runners as sort of sub-species of humans who are genetically predisposed to move across the landscape quicker than most. Running was written in their DNA. It was not written in mine.

I attempted running several times over the years with the same results. After a couple of weeks I would get tired of fighting the internal voice screaming at me to stop…and I would stop. I convinced myself that I was not built for running and that I simply lacked the mental fortitude to “tough it out”.

Turns out we humans are exactly suited for running. Our ancestors acquired the ability to walk (and no doubt run) upright, up on two feet, millions of years ago. In fact, we humans are unique among primates in that we always prefer to move forward on two feet.

On October 18th, 2010 I ran for the first time in almost a year. It sucked. My head filled with the same negative thoughts; exactly why are you running again Jim? I made it about a mile before stopping to walk. I finished the 2.7-mile loop in an unimpressive 35 minutes.  That’s 13 minutes per mile for those of you keeping score at home.

But, I finished.

A couple days later I did the same loop. This time I made it a mile and a half before stopping to walk. I walked for five minutes, and then finished the loop in a slow jog.

Two days later I ran it again. Only this time a strange thing happened; I didn’t stop! I ran the entire 2.7-mile loop in a bit under 30 minutes. I felt proud, invincible, and the next day a little sore.

It has been four months and I am still running. I run every other day and am up to about 25 miles a week (28 miles a couple weeks ago). I rarely run less than six miles at a time and my longest run so far has been twelve miles. I am down over twenty pounds and feel strong.

Just for fun the other day I ran my old 2.7-mile loop. Official time: 21.5 minutes. Not bad for a 41-year-old beer drinker. 

On March 17th 2011 I will run my first official half marathon (13.1 miles) in Tucson, Arizona. I am signed up for another half marathon in Nashville on April 30th.

The moral to the story? Slow down, way down. Take all pressure off yourself and remind yourself to take it easy. Don’t run too hard or too fast, if it hurts stop, and if it feels good keep going.

Oh...and running is very Eco-Logical. Once you have a decent pair of running shoes  it costs nothing but time. I bought my Nike shoes off the discount rack at Ross for $25. eBay has good deals as well.

Good Luck!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Food Co-ops Rock!

I can’t buy organic food, it is so expensive, who can afford that, I have a family to feed”. Man I hear that all the time. Well guess what? There are four of us and we eat only organic fruit and veggies, and we eat A LOT of them, for a total of $50.00 each month.

Twice a month on Saturday mornings, I wake up early and go pick up my organic produce at our food co-op. And if I volunteer and get there earlier to help unpack and distribute the produce, we get to divvy up and take home the extra fruit and veggies. Earlier during the week, I log on to the co-op website, chose from either a regular ($15) or an organic (25) basket, pay online, and wait until Saturday. I don’t know what I get, but it is half fruit and half vegetables.

For my scientific experiment, I chose regular and organic options to see how prices would compare to our grocery store options.

So; this is what I got last week, it cost me $15.00 (NOT organic).
I then went to Safeway, used with VIP card, and added up all the costs to compare the savings:
1 bag celery, 1.39ea = 1.39
5 lbs russet potatoes, 3.99/bag = 3.99
2 red peppers, 1.99ea = 4.00
1 16oz box strawberries, 3.00ea = 3.00
1 head of cauliflower, 1.5 lbs at 1.99lb = 3.00
1 head of broccoli, 1.5 lb at 1.29/lb = 1.95
1 head of spinach, 1.69 ea = 1.69
12 tangerines, on sale 3 lbs at 1/lb = 3.00
6 Fuji apples, 2lbs at 1.49lb = 3.00
3 tomatoes, 1.25lbs at 2.49/lb = 3.12
5 bananas, 1.75 lbs at 54 c/lb = 0.94
1 cantaloupe, 3ea = 3.00

Total $ 32.09

And because I volunteered, I got extra: 1 broccoli, 1 head of celery, 3 apples, 2 potatoes, 2 bananas. I didn’t even count those!

The next time I went again and this time got the organic option, which cost me $25.00. Again, with the same method, I went to the organic section of the Fry’s store in our area:

5 tomatoes 1.75lbs at 3.99/lb = 6.98
1 head of broccoli, 1lb at 2.29/lb = 2.29
1 lb green beans, no organic option 2.49/lb = 2.49
2 butternut squash, 3.5lbs at 1.59/lb = 5.56
2 6oz boxes blueberries, 3.99ea = 7.98
1 5lb bag of russet potatoes, 4.79ea = 4.79
1 5lb yellow onions, 5 lbs at 1.99/lb = 9.95
4 mini zucchini, 1 lb at 2.49/lb = 2.49
13 gala apples, 3.75lbs at 1.59/lb = 5.96
10 bananas, 4lbs at 69c/lb = 2.76

Total $ 51.25

So the numbers speak for themselves, exactly half-price for both organic and regular basket options. You can even get the organic basket for less than the regular food you’d get at the grocery store.

Here are the various excuses I’ve heard…
1. “It’s too expensive.” Wrong, ½ price is a good deal. See my little math equations earlier!
2. "It’s too much food.” Well we could break that down into two things here, first off it shouldn’t go bad because that amount should be the amount of fresh produce a family of four people should eat in a two week period.
But whatever. If you can’t eat it all, share with another family and you split the costs.
3. “It goes bad before we eat it.” Eat produce that goes bad first, plan your meals for the week, store/freeze/can what you won’t eat right away. Make soup with what is starting to wilt. Be creative, I’ve never had anything go bad.
4. “I end up getting something I don’t like.” True, sometimes you get a weird vegetable or something you don’t like. We got fennel once and I really hate the stuff. But I tried cooking it creatively. Now I know, next time there is fennel I will make someone else happy by giving it to them. Or just another person there to swap the fennel for something else!
5. “Do I have to pay for the whole season?” No, every week you chose whether or not to participate and pay.
6. “It’s too early.” Dude, come on. Once every two weeks, you wake a little earlier than normal (7 to 9 am depending on locations), get your food, and get back to bed and the sheets are still warm. You can even take turns if other people are also involved and have them pick up for the whole group.

Why is the food co-op eco-logic?
1. Cheap. Because it is a coop, prices are low and wholesale, you get a lot more bang for your buck. Again see my math!
2. Less packaging. All the produce is distributed in baskets. People come and pick up their loot in their own bags. No plastic bags!
3. Healthy diet. It “forces” you to eat your share of produce, makes you think of interesting combinations and creative recipes, and exposes you to fruits or veggies you would normally not buy.
4. Local effort. Granted the food itself is not local, but they do make an effort to stay within the US. And you can get the organic option. Furthermore, regional options are also available depending on the season.
5. Fun. Yes it is actually fun and a way to socialize and an opportunity to volunteer with your community. When you volunteer you get to meet and interact with other people from your town, share recipe ideas, swap fruit and veggies, and enjoy the morning together.

And if you are still not
convinced, on top of fruit and veggies, you can also get bread, cereal, tortillas, etc. And although they are not certified organic, they are locally-made, and have only essential natural ingredients, with no additives or preservatives.
They also offer pumpkins at Halloween, Xmas trees, fresh herbs, gingerbread kits, or even large crates of produce for large families or canning experts. I’ve made blueberry jam and it’s lasted us all year.

My kids love it, when I come in on Saturday morning they jump on me to see what they can eat first. I like that my kids get excited about that!

And the co-op has offerings in Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming!!

Look for other community supported agriculture or wholesale food options in your area!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Love Thy Honey

Alright, if Winnie-the-Pooh has not convinced you yet, honey is awesome and this is why:

- It is an all natural, raw food!
- Honey can provide a local source of sugar instead of using either sugar beets, processed corn syrup, or far-away cane sugar.
- Honey comes in a variety of nuances based on the types of plants/flowers available to those lil’ bees. You can also get creamed butter, flavored honey (i.e. maple, vanilla), honey combs, propolis, and crystallized honey.
- Honey is easier to digest than sugar and contains more energy.
- Honey is a huge source of calcium, Vitamin C, and iron, whereas sugar has close to nothing. It is also full of antioxidants to improve your immune system.
- Honey itself can be used as an anti-septic, antibacterial agent, is good for healing skin wounds, reduces inflammation, helps if you have a sore throat, and smells good!
-Bee pollen contains Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, helps with reproductive health, allergies, and boosts your immune system. The sap that bees use to help the structure of their hive is called propolis. It has many medicinal uses, including helping to fight cavities and to relieve burns.

The list of benefits is really endless.
Bee pollen, just eat it raw!

- Oh and one more thing, honey literally NEVER goes bad. It is purported that when archaeologists uncovered several Egyptian tombs, they found 3,000 year old honey that was still perfectly good.

*Make sure you buy the local, unprocessed honey products so they don’t lose their goodness through over-processing.
The only downside is if you are allergic to bees!

So when you can, cook with honey instead of sugar.
Just use half the amount of honey than sugar. Here is an easy and delicious honey-based recipe:

Winnie the Pooh’s Cheesecake
In a blender mix together
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup honey
1 cup cream cheese (neuf chatel, or mascarpone cheese works too)
1 cup sour cream

Put all the ingredients in a buttered Crockpot and cook on low for about 1-1.5 hrs depending on your Crockpot. Voila!

I should add that this recipe is from my friend Coralee Thompson who has some great ideas for yummy desserts!
Check out "Healthy Brains, Healthy Children: How Parents Can Raise Their Children in a Smarter, Healthier and More Natural Way" [Dr. Philip Maffetone (Author), Dr. Coralee Thompson (Contributor)]

Friday, February 4, 2011


I was browsing the local newspaper (The Noise, January 2011, article by Sarah Irani), while eating lunch today and came upon this great article about a growing breastmilk sharing network called
The do not provide contracts or screen mothers for milk but rather create a platform for parents to connect and set up on their own a way to share and donate breastmilk.
For some reason sharing breastmilk is almost a taboo topic. But even just nursing can be a sensitive topic for some.

During my last visit to France people couldn’t believe that I was still breastfeeding my then year-old daughter. “Still?!” they would say, I mean it’s ok to indulge for a couple months but a year of breastfeeding is an oddity. Many don’t even breastfeed at all, They associate the act with primitive, poor, or uneducated people.
Old French formula ad

This link below is from an article in the French newspaper shows some of the reasons for the lack of breastfeeding in France, partly due to late education on the subject, mothers being too quickly discouraged with some issues related to nursing, or even daycare centers who refuse to have to deal with breastmilk.

Like the author of the eatsonfeets article said, people are afraid of bodily fluids, and they don’t see breastmilk as actual food.
I still don’t understand why. Breasts have been so commercialized and turned into visual chest jewelry that their real purpose is being overlooked or even regarded as dirty or offending.

The push for formula as being clean, super nutritious, practical, and modern has really played a huge role in undermining breastfeeding.

Benefits from fomula are NOT the same as breastmilk

I mean how can you beat breastmilk? It is as eco-logic as you can make it: it is virtually free, on instant tap, and the perfect combination of nutrients/vitamins for your baby. It boosts his immune system, helps him grow key flora in his gut, helps the mother recover, lowers her chances of cervical cancer, automatically adjusts itself to fit the baby’s needs, balances the Ph in the baby’s stomach, lowers the chances for post-partum depression, is always clean, the right temperature, and “sterilized,” and the list goes on!

But if I buy diapers at the store, the cash register automatically gives me coupons for formula. When I went to our first appointments for our OBGYN and visited the hospital before our son was born, they gave us a big “goodie bag” from Similac with coupons and free samples of ready-to-go and powdered formula. If we go to the pediatrician’s office, there are always informational pamphlets on formula at the front desk.
And I don’t necessarily want to say that formula is evil. I do understand that certain babies are allergic to breastmilk or have special circumstances for which they need additional sources of food and their diet needs to be supplemented. And let’s not forget adoptive parents, foster parents, gay parents, or single parents, who need formula for their children. It is nutritious and provides the essential ingredients for babies.
But there are special breastfeeding rooms at stores, cloth “tents” to wear over yourself so you can breastfeed in public, both of which in essence are good, but in reality are emphasizing to the public the idea that breastfeeding is a dirty thing that should not be seen. There is the myth that men will feel uncomfortable, children will be too curious, teenagers will be scarred, and that someone will be offended if breastfeeding in public.

You can post sexy/slutty cleavage pictures on Facebook, but if they are breastfeeding pictures, they will be deleted because of indecency rules. Yeah, that makes sense.

This story at the Phoenix International Airport also quickly became a popular story on the internet:

If you know your British celebrities, I guess this woman called Katie Price is a well endowed and very famous singer. She was criticized for promoting formula, which is not allowed in the UK when it is targeting children 6 months or younger. Her sexy picture emphasizes the fact that she is in sexy lingerie, using her boobs to look good rather than to feed her child.

This is from her 2007 interview with OK magazine:
“On breastfeeding: When asked, Katie shares that she has decided not to nurse. Instead, she’s using disposable bottles, which she finds helpful.

"It’s brilliant — I have 20 crates of teats and bottles. I don’t have to sterilize or heat anything, you literally take the teat out of the pack, screw it on, throw it away. I don’t care what people say – you don’t have to breast-feed. They gave me a tablet that dries your milk up so my boobs haven’t hurt or leaked or anything. I don’t want a baby drinking from me — the thought of it makes me feel really funny. I think only a certain person could handle my knockers!"

Unfortunately, the sensational stories always make the news and I hope that they are not representative of the actual state of breastfeeding in public.

We should focus on the resurgence and pride in breastfeeding in the US as of late, the success of La Leche League in promoting breastfeeding, the presence of lactation consultants at hospitals, lines of clothing for breastfeeding mothers, and the laws on breastfeeding at work or in public.

Here is an interesting link on the various state laws in the country related to these issues:

And with networks such as eatsonfeets, even parents who cannot breastfeed can give their children what is best for them. Please gals, if your boobs work, use them!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

School Meals

So as many of you may have heard, the USDA just released the new dietary guidelines. General recommendations talk about reducing sodium in our diets as well as added sugars. To me this is not earth shattering news. You can rewrite and reword the guidelines as many times as you want. I think we all know by now that junk food, sweets, soda, and fried foods aren’t good for us. And what we need to do now is think of more eco-logical ways to eat and take care of our health.

Here is a great interview from the Diane Rehm show on NPR:

How about changing the rules and lobbying when it comes to the media and advertising?
Why do we still have Pepsi and Coke sponsoring school programs in exchange for vending machines in schools?

Why is Disney’s Shrek, the most unhealthy-looking of all the Disney characters, the one supposedly promoting healthy foods to kids? He was chosen to be the spokesperson for children’s eating habits, but at the same time he is promoting this!

                                                      Talk about conflicting messages!

Introduce more sport programs in schools, instead of always cutting those programs. Limit the number of junk food advertisements, advertisements that are aimed at toddlers and children.
And dude, let’s work on school meals…

Here is what is being offered at my son’s school for breakfast this week. I will preface this by saying that his school meals comply with USDA regulations.

So, on the plus side, milk and fresh fruit options every day. Good. Very good.
They actually make a point of telling you that the fruit is fresh.

Oh good, what were the other options?
Apples- old
Apples- rotten
Apples- canned (does that exist?)
Apples- freeze dried
Apples- fried?
Apples- fill in the blank

But I do have a few questions:
1. What the heck is a Bosco stick? I am not being facetious, I really don’t know what that is. Other wonderful items for the rest of the month included waffle sticks, French toast sticks, honey buns, and pop tarts.
2. Since when are pretzels and pizza breakfast food?
3. No nutritional info readily available, but I’ll make a wild guess and say it’s probably not the healthy cereal they’re getting
4. Why is every day so different? I know they are trying to show that it is exciting and fun to have breakfast at school if you are a 4 year old. But I would rather see it be more repetitive and healthier. My son eats the same thing for breakfast almost every morning, cereal, milk, maybe sometimes toast or a banana. There is nothing wrong with that.

But then again, why would you choose to have your kid eat the school breakfast?
1. “I work early and don’t have time to give him breakfast.” Making breakfast takes about 5 seconds. Give him a piece of toast and an apple (fresh) on the go in the car if you have to.
2. “That way I don’t have to worry about it.” It is a very stressful thing to have to reminder to do, feeding your kids.
3. “It’s cheaper to do the school meal program.” I checked the prices, it costs $1.25 per breakfast or 0.30 cents if you are on the reduced cost program. Granted, it would be hrad to make breakfast for less than 30 cents. But it doesn’t have to be expensive to make either breakfast or lunch for your kid. Buy bulk foods instead of buying prepackaged items for him. Ditch the cheese sticks and cut off a hunk of cheese for him instead. Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead of buy a box of “luncheables.” I promise it won’t cost much.

* I just checked in case you were still wondering. I quote from the company’s website: “Bosco Sticks are premium quality stuffed breadsticks. Just thaw, bake or deep fry, and top with butter and parmesan cheese for a delicious breadstick.”

Which just reminds me of this:

Electricity Cost Savings Example over the Life of a Home Solar Panel System

As you may know from my previous post Sarah and I installed a 2.7kW solar panel system on our home last year. The system is warranted for 30 years (which is written in the contract). Our total out-of-pocket cost for the system (after utility rebates, and state and federal tax credits) was $9,030. I have run the numbers to show the actual cost savings of our system.

This year our panels displace $70 per month in electricity, or $840 per year
Next year: $74.20 per month or $890.40 per year
Year 2: $78.65 per month or $943.80 per year
Year 3: $83.37 per month or $1000.40 per year
Year 4: $88.37 per month or $1060.44 per year
Year 5: $93.67 per month or $1124.04 per year
Year 6: $99.29 per month or $1191.48 per year
Year 7: $105.28 per month or $1263.36
Year 8:  $111.60 per month or $1339.20 per year

The payoff period for our solar panels is right around 8 years (a bit less actually).

Now, this is when the real savings begin.

Over the next 22.5 years we will have free electricity. That is, we will have been paid back for our initial investment and, over those 22.5 years, we will displace a lot of money.

Let me get my calculator again…

Utility costs displaced by our solar panel system from years 9-30:

Year 9: $1419.60
Year 10: $1504.75
Year 11: $1,594.24
Year 12: $1,689.90
Year 13: $1791.29
Year 14: $1898.77
Year 15: $2012.70
Year 16: $2133.46
Year 17: $2261.47
Year 18: $2397.16
Year 19: $2540.99
Year 20: $2693.45
Year 21: $2855.06
Year 22: $3026.36
Year 23: $3207.94
Year 24: $3400.42
Year 25: $3604.44
Year 26: $3820.71
Year 27: $4049.95
Year 28: $4292.95
Year 29: $4550.53
Year 30: $4823.56
Total: $63,000

Total electric bill savings after the system payoff (year 7.5) is $63,000…WOW!!!

And, there are solar panel systems out there still going strong after 30 years.

Now, what are the opportunity costs of investing that $9,030? That is, what would happen if you invested that money somewhere else? You could of course invest in local utility (APS) stock, and (if you are lucky) stay neck-and-neck with the rising costs of electricity (ca. 6% annually). You might make a decent return, but that return would be eaten up as your rates increase (as they always will).

Have fun,


Citrus Collection in Southern Arizona

As we were driving down a busy street in Phoenix, I thought “Wow there are a lot of citrus trees here”. The entire street was lined with trees just full of grapefruit, oranges, and lemons. And it seemed like no one was bothering to pick them up.

People will go to the grocery store and buy a bag of oranges but won’t collect the fruit from their own garden or neighborhood? What are the excuses for that?
“It is too time-consuming?” It might take a few minutes, half an hour max, and you get bags of FREE fresh, organic, produce.
“I am embarrassed to collect fruit if it is not on my property.” If it looks like no one is collecting the fruit, you could check with the owner and see if they would agree.
“It’s too complicated to make juice; it’s easier to go buy a bottle at the store.” If you get yourself a $5.00 juicer, it takes a grand total of two minutes to make a large glass of fresh juice.

A few days after thinking about those un-harvested citrus trees in Phoenix, I heard on the local news that a food bank had organized a fruit donation, where people could drop off their excess citrus to various locations.

Get this, TWO MILLION pounds of fruit were collected in 2009!
Talk about eco-logic.

Here is the link to the fruit donation efforts in Phoenix:

My smart husband just did the math. If you need 20 pounds of fruit for every gallon of juice, Phoenix collected 100,000 gallons of juice. That’s 12,800,000 ounces of juice or enough so that the 2 million people in Phoenix all get a 6oz glass of juice! And that is just the amount that was brought in, I am sure there was still a lot more to collect.

So then last week we visited our family in Tucson. My sister in law gave us a huge bag of small oranges from a friend of hers. Then, when we went over to my brother-in-law’s house, I noticed that they had a large grapefruit and two small lemon trees in their backyard. “Can I pick some grapefruit?” I asked, “Sure, we don’t really eat them.”

Eight giant bags later, I was happy with my bountiful harvest. Even after giving a bunch of grapefruit away, I had enough to make over a gallon of juice! I haven’t squeezed the oranges or lemons yet but it should make quite a lot as well.

Talk about good eco-logics. All that good organic, local food for free!

Solar Panels Home Economics

Sarah and I put solar panels on our home here in Prescott, Arizona last year. We signed the contract in October 2009. Here is the real-world information about the cost of our solar panels, current utility incentives, state and federal tax credits, and payback time.

The sticker price of our 2.7kW system, installed, was $8.10 per installed watt, or about $22,000.This was the sticker price of the system before local utility rebates, or state and federal tax credits.

Local utility rebates last year (in our case from Arizona Public Service [APS]) were $3 per installed watt, which equaled an $8,100 rebate on our 2.7kW system.

That left us at $13,900.

Then, a $1,000 Arizona State tax credit (not a deduction but a dollar-for-dollar tax rebate).

That left us at $12,900.

Then, a 30% federal tax credit (again, not a deduction but a dollar-for-dollar tax rebate).

That left us at a total out of pocket cost of $9,030

Our solar panels will offset approximately $70 per month in electricity costs today. That is, $70 a month we will not have to pay to your local utility company.

Now consider this: Electricity rates, on average, increase 6-8% a year (historic average over the past 30 years). This means that the $70 a month of electricity we are producing today will be worth $140 a month in ten years, $280 a month in 20 years, and $500+ per month in 30 years (the warranty on our system is 30 years).

System Financing: Let’s say that you finance that $9,030 system using a home equity line of credit (don’t laugh; some people still have home equity left). 5% annual interest on that $9,030 (amortized over thirty years) will cost approximately $49 per month.

So, you are saving $70 per month that is not going to your local utility company, but instead are paying $49 a month to your bank. This is a net savings of $21 per month! And ten years from now, you will still be paying $49 per month to your home equity loan, but that $70 monthly electric bill, increasing 6% annually, will now be at around $140 a month. You are now saving $91 per month or $1,092 a year.

Twenty years from now, you will still be paying $49 per month to your home equity loan, but that $70 monthly electric bill, increasing 6% annually, will now be at around $280 a month. You are now saving $231 per month or $2,772 a year!

Now, each year you will be saving more and more money relative to what you would otherwise be paying. In fact, over the life of the system, you will save tens of thousands of dollars in electricity.

Also, the above figures don’t include the added value, in real dollars, that your solar panel system has added to our home.It also doesn’t take into consideration that each year you will be stopping hundreds of tons of C02 from entering our atmosphere.

Current APS rebates have dropped from $3 per installed watt to around $1.75. However, the $8.10 per watt cost of our system has also dropped to around $6.50 per watt. So, our system, if we signed the contract today, would have cost us less than it did 16 months ago.

Have fun,


Wednesday, February 2, 2011


What is ecologics? The new fancy term I just coined. Doing things that are good for you, your family, your neighborhood, and your planet at large, whether it be in regards to food, health, exercise, or using the resources around us in a smart and environmentally friendly way. 

And surprise, surprise, many times it is also beneficial economically too.

Thus eco-logics.

I think there really is a need to debunk the myth that anything that is environmentally friendly, organic, or alternative, is automatically time-consuming, expensive, and not really worth it. Wrong, wrong, and again wrong. There are so many small and simple things we can do everyday that are efficient, cheap, and good for our health.