Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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08/31/2005: "A Conundrum Wrapped in a Rationalization"


So, a few days into my renewal of vows to the anti-consumerist lifestyle I got a phone call from a local store that sells pellet stoves. I contacted them awhile back wanting an estimate on how much getting one installed in my house would cost. They canít tell me until they come over and see my set-up but it seems they have been selling quite a few lately to people worried about the upcoming winter and out-of-control home fuel costs.

So, the problem is that Iím still really interested in getting one. For one thing, it would save me money in the long run and more importantly, they run a lot cleaner and more efficiently than oil furnaces (which is what I currently have). Not to mention that Juneau/Douglas is on itís own little power grid which resides on the other side of an avalanche chute so that we lose power quite a bitÖit would be nice to know I wouldnít freeze to death in the event of a long term outage due to some as yet unforeseen weather anomaly.

So, do I spend the money to do something that would ultimately be better for the planet, or do I save the money to put towards helping poor people? My friend is convinced I should get a roommate so I can do bothÖi.e. stay warm and still give money to the poor. The only problem with that is that the idea of sharing my space with someone is tortuous to me. As an artist I really can't work if there's anyone else around and beside, I *love* being alone. But then I feel like a jerk because I know a house my size could probably house 20 people in a developing country. I guess if Iím going to really make sacrifices for what I believe in, I have to just suck it up and do it.


Replies: 15 Comments

on Wednesday, August 31st, greg said

I'd recomend having a back up heating plan, and with oil prices what they are ... smart move!

Also, why not interview folks and see if any quiet studious types want to rent for a year contract? I dont suppose you are under any obligation to rent to anyone, just see what happens!(?)

on Thursday, September 1st, RR said

I think I'd go for the new stove too. And I agree with Greg, if you have to get a room mate do lots of interviews and make sure you get someone you really like. Also you could make a small donation to help poor people - if everyone did then it would help to solve some of the problems. No-one can do everything right......we're all human after all and we all know that being human sometimes stinks! If it's any consolation, I think you do really well with the eco bit and the being really nice and caring bit :)

on Thursday, September 1st, Howard said

Since gas prices just jumped 20 cents a litre over night here the stove might be a good idea at this time.

on Thursday, September 1st, Kasia said

The thing is that single people cannot save the whole world! Elise, you work hard, nobody gave you your house as a present - get yourself a stove you want! You deserve i! Ii know there are people starving and homeless, but the world is just like that. It's sad, but true. Help others as much as you can but never forget about yourself!

on Thursday, September 1st, john kaay said

My concern is in the pellet fuel. Is it locally manufactured, or shipped in from the lower 48? Might be setting yourself up for another fuel price squeeze there.
How about a regular wood stove with a catalytic convertor on the stovepipe? Do they still make them?
But by all means, do get yourself ready for peak oil.

on Thursday, September 1st, Elise said

I haven't had to buy fuel since Katrina but I'm bracing myself for the worst. It's been getting down into the mid-40s F (7.2 Celsius) at night and I haven't turned on my furnace yet but my place is starting to feel cooooold.

I guess it wouldn't hurt to just get the estimate but that's a good point about the pellets needing to be shipped up here John...in the end it might create more CO2 than if I'd just used the oil furnace. It seems like sometimes no matter how hard you try to do the right thing, the cure keeps ending up worse than the disease.

Have you heard of Carbon Neutral?

"Coldplay joined with Future Forests to combat climate change by making their award winning second album, 'A Rush Of Blood To The Head' Carbon Neutral and have continued with their highly anticipated third album, X&Y. Coldplay with the help of Future Forests have supported their own forest that will absorb all the carbon dioxide (CO2) created during the production, manufacture and distribution of the CDs as it grows to maturity.Ē

So, there's a way to determine your own emissions "footprint" and then do things to counteract it. It seems good in theory but I'm sure there's something about planting trees that's actually bad for the planet.

Oh god, I'm turning into a cynic!

on Thursday, September 1st, elderberrystudio2000@yahoo.com">Jackie said

E: Go for the pellet stove! I work at the Clean Air AGency in the Seattle area - we regulate the Clean Air laws in 4 counties around the Puget Sound. For people here unwilling to give up on their 'rights' to burn (in fireplaces and woodstoves) we recommend pellet stoves. They produce far fewer particulates than fireplaces or woodstoves. The fuel is much cheaper than oil or firewood. (Most people here in Washington have electric heat or propane or natural gas, where available). My friend and co-worker has a pellet stove in her house. She loves it. One load will keep the stove hot all night long. Plus the pellets are made from by-products of the timber industry - so you're using a newable resource that would have otherwise gone to a pulpmill or landfill.
You'll be helping the environment in two ways: reduced air pollution, and reduced consumption of a non-renewable fuel - oil!

on Thursday, September 1st, Elise said

Thanks Jackie! Great information, would you mind asking your friend what brand of pellet stove she has?

Also, if they make the pellets here in Southeast Alaska, maybe they wouldn't be hugely more expensive than down in the lower 48. I'll look into it. I've also heard of pellet stoves that burn corn.

on Thursday, September 1st, holly said

Another vote for the stove. Would you just get over your guilt about having a life (and is this the same friend who guilted you about wanting a new motor for your boat?)? How are you going to "help poor people"? By giving donations to a not-for-profit organization? Are you sure your money is going where it says it is? Is your donation going to make a difference compared to enormous donations given by corporations and conglomerates so they get a tax write-off?

Pellet stoves have a great reputation, environmentally (and pellets are dirt cheap-- people with pet rabbits use them for litter). This is not a flippant purchase. I think it's very prudent decision considering the energy crisis into which we are about to sink. Buy the stove and stay warm.

on Thursday, September 1st, Elise said

I know that in the grand scheme of things my small contributions are a drop in the bucket but they are making a difference to *someone*. I give to a local homeless shelter called the ďGlory HoleĒ (donít laugh) for example, http://www.ptialaska.net/~homeless/ they are always having funding issues where even a few thousand dollars can keep them from having to shut their doors. Not to mention local PBS, the Alaska Center for the Environment and the Gastineau Humane Society (they donít have any huge corporate sponsors as far as I know)Ö

And then there are larger international organizations like Oxfam, Doctorís Without Borders, and the Red Cross that all have excellent reputations for getting the money where itís needed the most.

I know that it isnít helping anyone to feel guilty all the time about owning anything or having any fun in life, but itís so easy to point at the very wealthy and bitch that they arenít doing anything and living such lavish lifestylesÖwhen it is all so relative, and Iím sure my lifestyle would be considered lavish by millions of people in the world. So, why the hell shouldnít *I* be expected to do more?

I agree that getting the stove is probably a good idea all around and I shouldnít look at it in the same way as buying, say, an X-box, I donít mean to come across all preachy or anythingÖIím not like that at all. I guess my blog is just a way for me to work through my own crisis of conscienceÖIím not throwing down the gauntlet or anything.

on Thursday, September 1st, Joan said

We've really considered a corn stove - I'm thinking this is somewhat similar to the pellet stove of which you speak. I know what you mean about the cure being worse than the disease though. Since my step-daughter has seizures we were really concerned about being burned and now with a toddler to be, I think it will have to be in the future...unless we did a lot of reconstruction to the house to accomodate an external thing. I'm not sure what that is. I'm not the mechanical mind of the family. Sometimes I really think, "Just buy what you want and give what you want because you can always end up on Medicaid in the end." Now that is cynical!

on Thursday, September 1st, Joan said

I forgot to ask, what are people paying for gasoline? Here we are up to 3.00 (as of this morning), starting at 2.59 on Monday evening.

on Thursday, September 1st, Elise said

I think a corn stove in Nebraska would make perfect sense Joan! But I can understand about not wanting to take a chance with anyone getting burned. I think about that with my two cats, what if one tried to jump on top or something..

Buy what you want and give what you want sounds like a good philosophy. I'm in a stage right now where I want to give a lot but that could change quickly if my circumstances changed. I live pay check to pay check so any little thing could send me into Foreclosureville.

Oh, and gas here is currently $2.71 or regular unleaded, but I've been told to expect that that will go up.
:confused:

on Friday, September 2nd, holly said

You have such a good heart, Elise. If everyone were as cpncerned about the collective well being of our species, this world would be a better place. I meant to mention in my mini-rant above, that if you're going to give to charity, do it on a local level. Low-scale suffering goes on daily under the media's radar, without Red Cross and Oxfam to help out-- I'm glad to see you have a local organization to support. I suppose you pick one or two and do what you can.

But in the long run, one less household with petroleum emissions and particulates is one more step in the right direction on an enormous scale. Things *have* to change! A friend of mine in the woods of Brown County lived in a wonderful A-frame cottage on a wooded ridge, using only a wood stove. He a dog and a couple cats. Evidently they nosed up to the thing when it was hot, figured it out and were never hurt. Actually, everyone I've ever known with a wood stove (and I've known a lot, now that I think of it!) has had cats and/or dogs without ever having a problem. My friend in the woods had an iron kettle that he would put on the stove to heat up for tea. He would boil pots of potatoes and make big pots of soup on it, too.

on Friday, September 2nd, Elise said

That's really good to know about the cats knowing better than to touch the stove! That makes me feel better.

And I agree 100% about "think globally act locally" as a general rule, but I also feel good about contributing to international aid organizations that help the *really* needy.

I talked to my sister about all this last night, and we talked about if every person who cared to, was able to convince one other person to give or help out in some way, what a long way that could go. I think I convinced her to do more (though for families with children they have to think about the best intrests of their entire clan)
still, everyone has got to start somewhere...right?

I think I'll go look at those stoves during my lunch break.