By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The sustainable-wood bed has been neatly centered in the room; windows have been thrown open for cross-ventilation and natural light. The unbleached cotton sheets contain no easy-care chemicals like formaldehyde, and neither the bamboo floors nor the deep-blue walls give off any of those awful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can make you woozy when you wake.
But open the drawer on that recycled wicker nightstand, and behold: It’s a veritable toxic-waste dump.
Sex toys — dildos, vibrators, that three-hole doll and even the hot vinyl nurse’s outfit you wore on your anniversary — generally reek of chemicals that can damage your body and poison the landfills. Especially nasty are the jiggly-jelly-type playthings, marketed as mimicking real skin. Fashioned out of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and softened with phthalates (pronounced “thal-ates”), these objects cause enough trouble when you mash them up against your privates — both PVC and phthalates contain toxic substances linked to fertility impairment and cancer. Nor are they safe stashed in the drawer: Because phthalates loosen up plastic molecules instead of bonding to them, they “off-gas” VOCs with little provocation.
But the real nightmare begins when you try to dispose of these toys and outfits, as you inevitably will: Incinerated PVC releases lead into the air; dumped in a landfill, it can leach dioxin; and in the recycling process, it turns into airborne benzene. Phthalates have now accumulated in our earth and water to the extent that almost everybody has some.
The solution: Look for PVC and phthalate-free sex toys made of elastomers such as silicone or natural rubber, or surgical steel and acrylic. Online, Toys in Babeland (www.babeland.com) and Womyn’s Ware (http://womynsware.com) offer plenty of enviro-conscious options, as does the Pleasure Chest (http://thepleasurechest.com), both online and in its West Hollywood store.
And please, dress up in something other than vinyl. It never really felt that good, did it?
Running a small solar-powered generator on the patio does more for a person than just shave a few kilowatts off the electricity bill, or provide relatively cheap outdoor electricity where there was none before. When you dedicate a few appliances to a limited power supply, you come to understand your own energy consumption in more tangible terms — you might think of it as raising your energy consciousness.
And unlike a full-on grid-tied home conversion, a homemade solar generator does not require massive capital investment and a certified electrical technician. True, those systems can now once again earn significant rebates from both the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s Solar Incentive Program and California’s Million Solar Roofs initiative that your puny little backyard power supply cannot. But you don’t need $35,000 up-front to install it either.
First, figure out how much power you need in amps. Choose appliances designed to run off the direct current (DC) of a car battery or RV instead of the alternating current (AC) in your home; it will save you both the expense and the power consumption of an inverter (a device that changes DC to AC). Most DC gadgets already come with an amp rating; all you need to do is multiply those amps by the number of hours you want to run the device. This gives you a figure known as “amp hours.” (For instance, I have a radio that pulls 3 amps; if I run it for four hours a day, I need 12 amp hours.) Add up the amp hours of all your devices, then buy a 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery (or two) with double that capacity.
Next, buy a solar panel (or two) that will replace that power every day. If you need 20 amp hours, and you have four good hours of sun every day, you need a solar array that will put out 5 amps per hour. Solar, or photovoltaic, panels are generally rated in watts, though, so you have to do a little more third-grade math: Multiply the panel’s volts (usually around 17) by the number of amps (in this case, 5), and you come up with your required wattage (85). Go out and get yourself a 100-watt solar panel. (Look for bargains: It will cost you around $5 per watt.)
Last, wire the photovoltaic panel to the battery using a charge controller — a small device that will prevent your solar-panel output from overcharging your batteries. Popular models for small systems, such as Morningstar’s SunSaver series ($50 to $80, depending on the amp rating), tell you exactly where to put the wires from the battery, panels and load, which in your case will be a three-hole DC input device — think of three automobile cigarette lighters — from Radio Shack.
I typically power a long string of LED lights, a Sony “Job Site” boom box, and various battery and cell-phone chargers off my system, which consists of two 54-watt Evergreen solar panels connected to two 12-volt, 110-amp-hour Costco batteries. It has not made more than a trivial dent in my electrical bill. But it has made me think. And without it, I wouldn’t have outdoor lights.?
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