hEating our Own Dog Food

by Dave Michels

Purina is coming out with a new dog food. It’s called Purina One Beyond. It is aimed at the whole Foods crowd of dog lovers. Here is one of four videos that introduces the product.


The video was mostly filmed in Boulder and features my son, Dustin, around the 1:50 mark. Dustin is featured for his effort at the Humane Society which Purina feels is reflective of their new brand. The dog food is made in the Denver plant which has 467 solar panels on its roof. A big wag-o-the ol tail to Purina for attempting to create sustainable dog food.
At our home we are working hard to reduce our impact on the environment. Note, I said reduce, not minimize. We aren’t prepared to hit the extreme, but we making numerous lifestyle choices to reduce our consumption. Here is what we are doing:

  • Solar Power: We took advantage of several programs to get a subsidized 9.6 Kw solar system installed on the roof. It looks like we are on track to produce 11,000 Kilo Watt Hours this year.
  • Thermal Hot Water: We also put up two hot water panels. It provides all of our domestic hot water in the summer and supplements year round. It is also contributes to our home heating, but admittedly marginally. I heard it running the other day (in December, in Colorado!). The domestic hot water is a single tank with two heat exchanges – one to the boiler and one solar.
  • Compact Fluorescents: About half the lights in the house and yard are CFLs. They have come a long way in the past few years. Dimmable now too. The incandescents are used in locations where they are often dimmed. All the light switches with dimmers go on to 80% (or less) by default and require an extra press to turn-on all the way.
  • Heating: We still use a natural gas boiler, but it’s a very efficient model. We have 10 t-stats for micro temperature control. We also installed a fairly efficient wood stove.
  • Energy monitoring. As I write this I can tell you that my home is currently using 1.6 KW. I have a little monitor that provides near real time information, it literally updates with every light switch flip. There are several on the market – this one is made by Current Cost; ENVI. Real time monitoring does not save energy directly, but increases awareness which usually decreases energy.
  • Lots of home automation, mostly for fun, but there are numerous ways to reduce energy consumption through home automation.

Household Solar Energy Production, by month
I am not ready to give up oil. I still drive a car, and fly in planes. Oil is so intertwined into our daily lives, that it is impossible to go without it. Deodorant, shampoo, even fast food milk shakes use petrochemical thickners. Oil products can be found in carpet, clothing, furniture, toothpaste – it’s hard to find an aisle at the market that doesn’t have an oil derivative, especially plastic.
Oil is becoming harder to find and get, and our appetite for it continues to increase. Perhaps we will discover/invent a miracle substitute, but in the meantime, producing power from the sun seems to be a reasonable alternative.