Tag Archives: compost

Friday Linkage 9/18/2015

Tom Brady supports Donald Trump. Peyton Manning is starring on the field as a weaker armed version of the Hall of Fame quarterback. Jay Cutler is doing Jay Cutler things again in Chicago. You could say that I spent some time this last week watching football and just plain zoning out. Go Hawks!

On to the links…

How Much Of Your Retirement Fund Is Tied Up In Fossil Fuels? Now, You Can Find Out.—A person’s 401k will be one of the two largest investments in a portfolio, with a home being the only competitor. How much of that money is going to support fossil fuel interests?

Half Of California’s Electricity Will Come From Renewable Energy In 15 Years—California passed a major climate change related bill recently. Although it was watered down by fossil fuel interests at the last minute there is still a lot of good things in the legislation.

A Third American City Is Now Running Entirely On Renewable Energy—It is still one the most pretentious ski towns in the world—go Steamboat Springs!—but it is now 100% fueled by renewables. There is a lot of marketing involved in the effort, but it is commendable nonetheless.

Meet the New National Geographic and Weep—The same people who bring you the sheer horror that is Fox & Friends will be the same people who publish one of the most amazing magazines in world history. Rupert Murdoch ruins everything that he touches and National Geographic will be no different.

AB InBev plans takeover bid for SABMiller—You want to talk about mega-merger. This is it. Nine of the world’s twenty largest breweries would be controlled by a single entity. Now, a lot of that volume would be made up of junk macro beer that has seen flat to declining sales for the past decade. So, maybe this is a doubling down on a losing bet hoping for a nag to come through.

National Grid CEO: Large Power Stations For Baseload Power Is Outdated—The distributed model—think the internet—has supplanted the traditional centralized model of most industries save for electrical power generation.

Siemens Looks Toward Next-Generation 10–20 MW Wind Turbines—Think about a 10 to 20 MW wind turbine for a moment. At the mid-range it could be the equivalent of 10 GE 1.5 MW turbines that dot the American landscape. Wow!

The Palm Oil Plantations Powering Communities and Tackling Climate Change—Why aren’t all large scale agricultural operations taking such a holistic approach to their energy use and lifecycle? The number that got me was reducing the diesel use from 2.8 million liters per year to under 500,000 liters per year.

10 Ways to Get Rid of That Awful Smell in Your Kitchen Sink—If you cook a lot in your home you are quite familiar with the strange odors that can come from the disposal drain in the kitchen sink. I use a combination of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint liquid soap and hot water. It takes care of any funk lickety split.

8 Things to Never Bring into Your Home—We are always looking for those quick hit things to make our homes a little bit greener. Here are eight easy things to avoid.

25 Things you Should Start Adding to your Compost Pile—How many of these things do you throw away that could be put into the compost?

This Southern State Made A Big Commitment To Start Teaching About Climate Change—Welcome to the modern age Alabama. Roll tide!

These Two Genius Tricks to Improve School Food Have Nothing to Do With What’s for Lunch—Simple and cost effective. These are the changes that we can make on the local level that will really impact our children’s lives.

Sad Side Yard Transformation

I have truly struggled with my southwest-ish facing side yard. It’s where my two compost bins are located because the afternoon sun really heats things up and it’s a convenient trip from the kitchen to dump scraps.

My first attempt to bring some life and color to this space was a series of butterfly bushes. Epic fail. After the first year I lost one of the bushes. I replaced the lost bush, but by the end of year two all of the bushes were dead. I cut them to the ground and let the bed lay barren for a year while I thought about what I wanted to do.

My second thought was to build a hop trellis and grow some hops for my homebrew. My recent reduction in beer drinking and the subsequent stoppage of homebrewing made that an irrelevant idea. Back to the drawing board. Here is what I was left to work with:

Sad Side Yard

Why not vegetables? Since vegetables are generally annuals I would not need to worry about losing plants to the inevitable winter wind. It’s not a bed that people spend a lot of time looking at, so the aesthetic value of flowering bushes is diminished. Hmmm…..

The first challenge was removing the god damned river rock and landscape fabric. Seriously, this stuff is the worst. The rock just retains heat and provides no benefit to the plants other than keeping weeds down. The landscape fabric actually lets water run off rather than percolating into the soil and it traps dirt on top where weeds eventually take root making the landscape fabric irrelevant. Ugh.

With that dirty, dusty job done things went pretty smoothly. The dirt in the bed was fairly rich, but I still amended it with heaping handfuls on compost and coconut coir. In went three cherry tomatoes, three paste tomatoes, two sweet peppers, two hot peppers, two edamame plants, and four cauliflower starts. A thick layer of shredded cypress mulch on top finished everything off:

Happy Side Garden

What was once a barren and sad side yard has become a vibrant little garden. The picture above is a somewhat dated as the tomato and pepper plants are really taking off with the perfect mix of rain and sun we have been getting in eastern Iowa this spring.

Now imagine how much food we could grow if every house in America just converted one neglected bed alongside their home into a small vegetable garden. Amazing potential.

Friday Linkage 3/6/2015

I do not know if is a function of human derived climate change or the fact that weather in the Midwest can be schizophrenic, but we have seen the temperature go from 35 on Monday down to negative 5 on Thursday and back up to 35 by Friday afternoon. Whiplash anyone?

On to the links…

Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts—After much public pressure and bad behavior on Ringling Bros. part the misuse of elephants as entertainment appears to be coming to an end. It is too bad that these animals are still going to live in a facility run by Ringling Bros. More pressure is needed to get these animals to a real sanctuary.

How Global Warming Helped Cause the Syrian War—If you do not believe that global warming and climate change are a threat to national security you are probably a stooge getting payments from the Koch Brothers or Exxon.

The U.S. Just Got One Step Closer To Regulating Airplane Carbon Emissions—Air travel is a huge source of carbon emissions. Regulating these emissions is a big deal. There is progress being made. If you ever doubt the importance of the election in 2016 remember that a Republican president would roll back any of the progress that has been made on issues like these. Those are the stakes.

Solar Energy’s Unexpected Conservative Backers—The price is right and the technology is available. It finally looks like the political roadblocks to widespread solar adoption are falling as conservative—just not the right wing of the right wing—politicians and pundits are jumping on the bandwagon.

Google Invests $300 Million in SolarCity Rooftop Solar Installations—So, $300M supports at least 25,000 solar installations. Imagine if we just stopped subsidizing oil and gas to the tune of billions of dollars and funneled that same amount of money into funds deploying solar? I know, it’s crazy talk.

Solyndra’s Fall was Great for Solar, Just Ask Henry Ford—The shakeout in the solar industry was good for the industry as a whole and consumers because it got rid of the weaker players or non-competitive technologies. It is the sign of a maturing market.

Why Utility-Scale Solar is Booming on the East Coast—Solar is not just about the sunny climes west of the Mississippi.

“Countertop” Flow Battery Is Coal-Crushing Energy Storage On Steroids—Cheap and abundant energy storage is the killer technology for distributed renewables. With this technology the peaks and valleys of energy production and demand can be leveled out without the need for fossil fuel base load power.

Deepwater Gets Financing for First US Offshore Wind Farm—Cape Wind’s financing appears to be in trouble, but this wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island might go forward. It’s a small project—only five 6 megawatt turbines—but think of it as a proof of concept that could lead to a lot more deployment.

Electricity Cost Decreases By 30% In Kenya Due To Geothermal—Where available and appropriate, geothermal is a wicked good renewable energy choice.

Is Grass-Fed Beef Really Better for You, the Animal and the Planet?—The moral of the story is that we should eat a lot less meat, especially a lot less beef.

Minneapolis Compost Rules Scrutinized with Pets in Mind—Someone’s pet gets into a compost bin that is not their own and it is the fault of the compost program that the dog got sick. How come no one asks the question about the dog owner’s responsibility to keep their pet from ingesting scraps bound for a compost facility?

Amsterdam is Out of Bicycle Parking Spaces, so it’s Building 40,000 More—If I ever had to pick someone other than the U.S. to live it would be the Netherlands. It’s the only place I have seen with high tech bike parking right next to a train station and a giant parking ramp for bicycles in the city center.

10,000 Elephants in the Room: I Made It Through CPAC Without Puking—Granted, every major political conference brings out the crazies. However, CPAC seems to have more than its fair share of whack jobs in Duck Dynasty garb, gun nuts, John Birch types, and whatever is left of the Tea Party.

3 Vile Myths too Many Food Companies are Shoving Down our Throats—Like urban legends, these food myths refuse to die.

Starve a Landfill: Efficiency in the Kitchen to Reduce Food Waste—Everything but the oink became a sign of the lengths the industrial food machine would go to extract profit from the slaughter of animals, but the same principle needs to be applied in our homefront war on global warming. With so much food waste in the U.S. it is imperative that we waste less in order to live better.

11 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Waste Today—Sometimes we forget about the little things that we should be doing to make this planet a better place. Just a friendly link reminder.

Is it a Better K-Cup?

I drink a lot of coffee.  Sometimes it even worries my six-year-old daughter who will ask, “Daddy, what do you drink besides coffee and beer?”  Fair question, little one, but the answer is probably not much else.

Normally, to satiate my desire for coffee during the five days a week I spend in the office I use a Keurig single serve machine to brew one cup at a time.  Instead of using disposable K-cups on a regular basis I use Solofill refillable cup.  It works pretty well and I get to choose the type of coffee that goes into my cup.  It also eliminates the waste associated with K-cups.

However, on the occasions where I want an additional cup of coffee and I am out of Solofills there is a cache of K-cups in a desk drawer.  On a recent trip to the store I noticed some inexpensive K-cups from Cameron’s Coffee and decided to give them a shot.

Cameron’s Coffee, a roaster out of Minnesota, is actually not producing K-cups but an alternative:

Camerons Pod

It’s a rigid plastic ring with a simple filter suspended from the aforementioned plastic ring.  Unlike actual K-cups these little guys are only punctured at the top, where a foil seal is present, and the filter hangs above the needle that would normally puncture the bottom of a K-cup.  The claim is less waste is produced with this system.

Regardless of which coffee brewing mechanism I use all of the wet grounds go right into the compost bin.  It’s pretty easy to separate the filter from the ring—just a quick wrist flip with a paring knife produces ready to compost grounds:

Camerons Composted

All that is left is the foil seal and rigid plastic ring.  The coffee was okay and the system seemed to work so I see no reason why Cameron’s Coffee alternative K-cups cannot be the regular reserve in my coffee cache.

My home solution for a coffee fix is the deceptively simple Aeropress which produces some of the best coffee for the least work.

Friday Linkage 1/3/2014

Man, writing 2014 is a trip.  It happens every year, but the first few weeks of putting down a new year always throws me for a loop.  I digress.

On to the links…

California Installed More Rooftop Solar In 2013 Than Previous 30 Years Combined—What do you follow that up with?  Think about the acceleration of rooftop photovoltaics over the past couple of years.  Even better, think about what this means in cumulative terms as more PV arrays come on line in 2014.

Massive Minnesota Solar Project gets Legal Boost—It’s important to remember that solar is not just important in California.  In Minnesota, not exactly known for sunny days on end, solar is getting to be a big deal.

Fossil Fuel Industry and Koch Brothers Align to Kill Extension of Wind Energy Tax Credits—Anytime you read a story about some group opposed to renewables it always seems to come back around to the Koch Brothers.  Do these guys like anything besides money and Fox News?  Heck, they probably do not even like Fox News that much.  Just money.

We Want You for the Repair Resolution—Repairing things has become a lost art and skill in our modern society.  Devices become “obsolete” so quickly that replacement just seems like a better option.  It’s a pretty tired story, but committing to repair is maybe the greenest thing you could do in 2014.

World’s Smallest Laptop Adapter could Lead to More Efficient Electronics— How many laptops are out there sucking electricity right now through under-engineered power bricks?  Millions?  Tens of millions?  More?  Like inefficient cable boxes this is one of those unseen vampires of power.

The United Watershed States of America—I love alternative maps that do away with current political boundaries.  We are so wedded to the boundaries of states in our minds that it colors our decisions on issues that have absolutely no regard for where people in Washington D.C. though borders should be.

California Gripped By Driest Year Ever—Drought is just nasty because it is so persistent.  Granted, any historian of the American west will tell you that California is a state defined by extreme weather and natural events so to judge anything over a short period of time is just asking for trouble.  Nonetheless, I do not want to be someone counting on rain in the Golden State.

Hawaiian Garden Being Brought Back to Paradise—Hawaii is a strange place botanically.  A lot of the plants that we identify with the islands are non-native and/or invasive.  A vision of a pre-invasive species Hawaii is interesting.

The Easiest Way to Tell if You Have Healthy Soil—Sometimes we become too enamored with fancy tests.  Just open your eyes and nature may provide you the answers in a relatively easy to understand format.

Millions Of Acres Of Chinese Farmland Too Polluted To Grow Food—China’s list of problems keeps growing and many of them are self-inflicted.  The air is just awful.  The land is so polluted in some spots that it is no longer capable of growing food safely.  If there is a place headed for a nasty ecological crash, it has to be China.

The Mysterious Story of the Battery Startup that Promised GM a 200-mile EV—This story is just fascinating and as it made the rounds over the break everyone said it should be used as a primer on startups.  I think it speaks to a lot of issues involving startups, mature industries, the government, etc.  Enjoy it.

Walt Disney World’s Eco-Hypocrisy

No one is going to claim that Walt Disney World is an eco-friendly destination.  Ever.  It’s built on what is essentially swamp land in the middle of the sprawl of Orlando, which has to be one of the most unsustainable developments in the history of mankind.

Some of the hypocrisy just gets to me.  Particularly at Animal Kingdom.  All throughout the park you are preached to about certain elements of eco-centricity.  There are no straws at Animal Kingdom because those are a common item that ends up polluting the animal enclosures at zoos all over the world.  I am down with that, but then explain to me why each tray of food at the quick service outlets had a small plastic card begging people not to litter?  Why not just print the message on the trays rather than include a disposable plastic card?  I cannot explain this conundrum.

However, you are given a paper straw with dinner at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  So, not all straws are bad I guess.

Then there are balloons.  A common souvenir is a balloon that encases another balloon shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head.  Cool right?  Except at Animal Kingdom you cannot get balloons because they might float away and end up in an enclosure.  Okay, but a balloon released at any of the other parks—Magic Kingdom is the farthest park away at less than 5 miles—could easily end up in Animal Kingdom.  Why not ban the balloons at all parks?  Oh wait, dollars…

There are dozens of examples of eco-hypocrisy that I witnessed in my five day trip to the resort.  I do not want to sound like a grump, but wrapping yourself in the flag of self-righteousness when everything else runs counter to that image is just wrong.

At least the toilet paper has 25% post-consumer recycled content:

Magic Kingdom Toilet Paper

You can understand my fascination with toilet paper considering that I started this blog talking about toilet paper so long ago.

One place where the resort does a better job than most other parts of the country is in terms of mass transit.  In the middle of Florida, which seems to hate mass transit because it just smells like some kind of socialist conspiracy, there is plenty of mass transit on the resort grounds.  You can spend your entire trip from airport and back in the embrace of Disney operated mass transit.

Even more impressive than its ubiquity is the organization of the mass transit.  There are no disorganized bus stops with people trying to figure out what queue to stand in.  Nope.  Each destination has clearly marked stops and where the frequency merits there are actual employees assigned to assist people in finding their way.  Even at the busiest of times the wait is rarely twenty minutes.  Granted, you are paying a premium to stay on-resort but getting to where you are going without renting a car is pretty sweet.

Now, about that monorail…

Friday Linkage 10/4/2013

The government is shut down, the debt ceiling is about to be reached, and all we hear is politicians crowing on the news shows about how no one wants to “compromise.”  Note to any tea party Republicans, when you only control one chamber of the legislature and do not occupy the office of the executive compromise does not equal getting everything you want.  As it was said so many times during the second Bush’s dastardly administration, elections have consequences.  I also remember a lot of these same blowhards saying “love it or leave it” but that sentiment seems to be one that only bloviating Rush Limbaugh types like to bust out.

On to the links…

U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions down 11 Percent Since 2007—There are a lot of interesting graphs to drive home the point, but comes down to some pretty simple facts—we are burning less coal, driving fewer miles, and getting more miles per gallon from our cars.

America’s First “Legal” Hemp Crop in Almost 60 Years—It’s legality can be questioned because the federal government probably does not view it the same as state authorities.  Granted, the feds have other things to worry about right now.  It’s a small step, but hemp could be an interesting crop for farmers to add to the rotation.

Can the Economy go Full Circle—The idea of a circular economy—where new goods are produced from old goods without using new resources—is the holy grail of the green community.  Instead of downcycling, things are truly recycled.

Tastes Like Chicken—Is non-meat meat the future?  If you read this article by uber food dude Alton Brown there might be a glimmer of hope for faux meat to reach the promise of replacing the conventional meat in the future.

The Benefit of Frozen Foods—I do not get why people hate on frozen foods so much.  Sure, it seems like buying reusable bags full of fresh food all the time is the best solution but there is a place for frozen foods in the equation of healthy living.  I am not talking about frozen pizzas or T.V. dinners.  Think about the utility of frozen vegetables or fruits.

The Nacho Dorito Taste—Do you want to know why you crave a half dozen Doritos Los Tacos at 2 AM?  Watch this video from Michael Moss and find out.  Or, just stay blissfully ignorant about the ways that our brains are manipulated by food scientists.  Hmmmm, tacos…

IKEA to Sell Residential Solar Panels in Britain—A lot of analysts talk about something meeting the China or India price.  That is the point when things become affordable in emerging markets.  Well, for the developed world I think it should be called the IKEA price.  Now you are going to be able to buy a solar PV system at everyone’s favorite purveyor of flat pack furniture.

Xcel Energy Opens Way to Solar Gardens—Solar gardens are a sweet idea.  A lot of people do not live in homes that can take advantage of roof mounted racks of solar panels.  These people would probably like to take advantage of renewable energy.  This is where a solar garden comes in.  You buy into a portion of the power produced and the array is built in a location that is suitable.  It’s a great idea because it expands the pool of people who can participate and it scales up projects to take advantage of cost efficiencies.

Iceland Seeks to Cash in on its Abundant Renewable Energy—Iceland is always a fascinating country to me.  Something about it just intrigues me.  Already the country gets most of its electricity from renewable sources, geothermal and hydro, and it is looking to export that power via an undersea cable to Europe.  I guess international banking was a bust, so something had to give.

Composting Made Easy—Besides making your children do it, I dig the idea of just burying kitchen scraps in the garden.  A lot of permaculture gardens use a similar method of burying organic matter to decompose deep within beds.

How to Grow a Food Forest—I just love food forests.  There is something magical about a lush landscape that produces food.  It’s like living in Pixie Hollow.

Siberian Tigers Making a Comeback in China—It looks like one of the most endangered apex predators in the world has a shot at survival.  If an animal can make a comeback in China, it can probably be something that is repeated just about anywhere else.

Elephant Says Goodbye to an Old Friend—As elephants are slaughtered in Africa, it is essential to remember the humanity of these majestic creatures.  Here is a picture of an elephant standing guard over an old friend who has passed away.  It’s gut wrenching and touching at the same time.