Friday, August 5, 2011

Bike Pride and the Wynyard Quarter

Was tickled to show the Yuba off to David Haywood and whanau on they way out of the Orcon Great Blend last night. Apparently they've considered a cargo bike with two child seats. Hope I restrained my enthusiasm below the boring fanatic threshold.

Then cycled through the Wynyard Quarter due to open tomorrow. Nice spaces, and a handy ramp up to the viewing platform. That nice existing frontage around half the Viaduct Basin will hopefully connect right around (timeline suggests 2013?) and should benefit from having more outdoor punters in the area rather than the restaurant/bar clientele of the Viaduct. Speaking of which, the bridge provides nice pedestrian access between Wynyard and the Viaduct which could change the dynamic of the whole area.

Got several comments appreciating the bike lights as I cruised around, but uncertain how much to value the opinion of the guys peeing off the wharf.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Now it's getting hard - FY2011 Carbon Accounts

Our pollution figures for this year have increased a long way back towards their 2007 levels. Major contributors were my trip to Christchurch for a polo tournament and the purchase of a new laptop.
Looking ahead, we have decided to set a target of reaching the current1 globally sustainable per capita emissions level (~1.2T CO2e) by 2050. This requires us to reduce by just over 3% each year, compounding. That will become increasingly challenging, and require systemic change2 around us as well as personal lifestyle choices.

For the new year, we plan to find 2% by halving our regular butter and sugar consumption. These are mostly used for baking, for which we will increasingly use margarine. We are testing various recipes with less sugar, and may alter our selection of baked treats. As a side benefit, this could be healthier.3

We want to make the remaining 1% savings amongst our "irregular" consumption: rarely taken actions or supplies for special occassions. These are the source of all variation recorded between this year and last, as we haven't performed a new baseline audit and continue to use our 2010 figures. The very irregularity of this consumption makes it harder to work with. Over time we will expect continuing fluctuation, but require an underlying downward trend.

Accurately reporting this will require an improvement in our accounting practise. A likely first step will be to amortise the big figures, a practise we have so far applied only to the house. Our new laptop will be used over several years, but we thought there would be enough similar items from year to year to smooth out. That will be less and less the case as we make smarter purchases.4 We may also plan to fly domestically once every n years, rather than on a most-years basis, and budget that into our regular baseline.

1) With world population expected to rise to perhaps 9 billion by 2050, the per capita sustainable emissions level will presumably decrease.
2) 20% of our current emissions are due to public services we have no direct choice about consuming. Yesterday Heather initiated conversation with a Dunedin city councillor on this very topic, building on a hint of shared interest.
3) Going significantly dairy free would make a much bigger impact on the carbon numbers, as well as distance us from an industry which has recently expanded beyond the country's carrying capacity. We remain held back by uncertainty over how to supply Heather's calcium needs and reluctance to overhaul the complex dietary system we have developed for her over eight years of illness.
4) The laptop also stands out because we bought it new, rather than second hand. We have chosen to assign all emissions responsibility to the initial (retail) purchaser, so the choice between new and second-hand is much more stark in carbon terms than dollar terms. We could change this policy, at least on large items, which would be more accurate in many ways but opens the thorny question of how to apply depreciation.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Beach! Beach! Beach!

Which one needs the wheelchair?

Yesterday we went to the beach to try out something new - the Vera Wansbrough Memorial Beach Wheelchair. The chair has fat, low pressure wheels to glide over the grass and sand right into the water. The goal was to get Heather to the water more often, which seemed a fitting use for some money inherited from her beach-loving grandmother.

The chair was a great success, and will be well worth the money (approx $600) if we get out a few more times each summer. No more parking the normal chair where the path ends and carrying Heather across the sand into the water. No more carrying her back up, all slippery and wet.

In the future we won't take the other wheelchair, but took it just in case yesterday. It did provide a nice place to sit and talk to Heather, while she reclined in her personal lounger.

The wheels also make a handy seat.

With its big wheels, the whole contraption floats when nobody is sitting in it. With a person sitting in it, the wheels still float but the foot end gradually sinks. We hope that a simple floatation device strapped on that end will give us a fully floating option that Heather can swim on and off.

The following video shows how smooth the process of coming out of the water was. If you're wondering why we pause, back up, and move forward again, that's me discovering where the floating wheels touch bottom and start turning. I also stop to check if it works to push from the head end, but decide that it works best to pull from the feet. We do need a handle to save stooping over and avoid lifting too high and banging poor Heather's head.


Do try this at home. Our system is cobbled together from a pair of 49cm Wheeleez Wheels (distributed in NZ by and a $50 fold-out beach lounger we were given several years ago. We bought an axle and locking pins with the wheels, and ran the axle through a piece of hdpe pipe I had around the house (it was too small for making polo mallets). Two hose clamps were also required. Here are all the parts:

The pipe is simply lashed to the mid-section of the lounger, using hemp string. I had to use a needle to thread the string through the plastic canvas, to get the axle at a suitable balance point.

Using the pre-fab lounger saved heaps of effort putting the canvas onto a frame, but it was never designed to go into salt water and will presumably be replaced in time. By then it will have earned an honourable place in history for proving out the idea.

The frame was designed to have a support under the knee, which doesn't work when it is being lifted and the force goes the other way. To stop the lounger folding up at that point I put the hose clamps on to hold the two tubes together. The clamps loosen with a screwdriver and slide off the end of the the lower tube, allowing the lounger to fold again for transport. So far it is working, but you can see that the previous (pivoting) attachment between those tubes has been strained during testing. I think that the strain has eased since I moved the axle, but only time will tell.

Net result: one very happy Heather.