Tag Archives: Iowa

First Quarter 2020 Beer Local, Direct, and Packaging Neutral

Here is what my beer purchasing history looked like for the first quarter of 2020:

Q1 2020 Beer

In terms of drinking “local” I only purchased one beer that was not produce nearby.  At a hotel bar in Davenport my choices were fairly limited, but for some reason Summit Brewing’s very good Saga IPA was on tap.  I will admit that I am conflicted when it comes to large-ish regional breweries like Summit in St. Paul, Minnesota.  It is not local to me, but it is definitely still more of a craft brewery than something owned by the giant brewers.  Nonetheless, one beer from a non-local brewer over the course of three months is pretty good.

I was doing really well buying beer that did not produce any packaging waste, but then coronavirus upended all of my plans.  Before leaving for an aborted ski trip to Colorado I stocked up on some local beers from Big Grove Brewery and Iowa Brewing Company.  Big Grove Brewery’s Easy Eddy has become my “go to” beer over the last six months or so.  Available in twelve packs widely across my metro area it is an easy pick-up.

In Colorado I found myself really digging the beers made by the folks at Hideaway Park Brewery.  On the Saturday that the state of Colorado effectively closed all ski resorts for the season—only two hours or so after I arrived in Winter Park—I was sitting on barstool at Hideaway Park enjoying several draft beers.  I also bought two six packs to take back home and hunker down for a period of isolation.  Damn coronavirus.

If there is one thing that I can ask everyone and anyone who ever drinks beer it is to support the local breweries in your community any way possible during this really shitty period of time.  A lot of the business that these breweries count on is gone.  There are little to no commercial account activity in bars and restaurants.  On site draft and merchandise sales are gone.  It is hard times.  Buy a six pack if you can.  Hell, buy a case if you can.  Even if it sits in the refrigerator for several weeks that is okay because the cash flow might just help your local brewery make it through until we can all raise a glass again at the bar.

March 2020 Solar Production and EV Efficiency

My solar monitoring platform was available for an entire month and all of the panels on my solar system were fully functional.  This led to a pretty good March for solar production:

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Just under 578 kWh for the month.  This compares with ~316 kWh in 2019 and ~424 kWh in 2018 or an increase of ~83% and ~36% over each of those years respectively.  My guess is that the average year-over-year production increase will fall somewhere in the middle of those two on average over the course of the next year.  Only time will tell.

For the month, my household ended up “net positive” ~67 kWh.  My household was also “net positive” in March.  It is my assumption that the next couple of months will be big “net positive” months in terms of electricity consumption versus production since the period before the hot summer months is generally light on consumption.

One factor driving a lower level of electricity consumption is the fact that we are not driving much, if at all, as a household due to COVID-19.  All of my children’s activities have been cancelled and we are working from home.  I cannot remember if I have charged my Nissan Leaf in the two weeks we have been home from an aborted spring ski trip to Colorado.

For the month, I drove my Nissan Leaf ~652 miles at an average efficiency of 5.3 miles per kWh.  Almost all of those miles were in the two weeks before we locked down at home.  I “saved” ~746 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions compared to driving my truck assuming that I pulled all of the electricity from the grid at my utility’s average carbon intensity.  In the first quarter I have “saved” ~2,785 ponds of carbon dioxide emissions.  Given that I am now producing more electricity via my solar panels than my household is consuming, including EV charging, those carbon dioxide savings are even greater.  The same logic goes for the fuel cost savings.

April is going to be a weird month for sure.

Who Owns Your Grocery Store?

Take a moment and consider the following statistics:

Groceries and food are unique in that all Americans buy groceries and food—the difference being that food can be purchased both in its ingredient form (e.g. groceries) and its prepared form (e.g. restaurant meals)—regardless of income level, race, etc.  This is literally something that we all should be interested in.

I would contend, however, that most consumers do not give a second thought to groceries outside of what they write on weekly shopping lists.  Granted, there are informed consumers who seek to maximize their grocery dollars or seek to spend their grocery dollars on products that match a certain set of beliefs.  In a nearly $850 billion market there are a lot of people who just go about their business in a routine.

It’s not merely about funneling dollars from corporations that do not share your beliefs—although that is a big part of the allure—but also about creating an economic system where small purveyors can access markets.  If you are a producer of anything, be it food or lawn mowers or children’s toys, supply to Walmart means being big.  Like really big.  If you are a local grower with a seasonal schedule Walmart or Kroger will not even take your call.

However, these are the kinds of enterprises that we need to support in a world where our food increasingly comes from fewer and fewer suppliers.  It is not a sustainable or resilient system to have single points of failure for entire segments of our food system.  That is where we stand right now.  If Tyson Foods went out of business tomorrow how much chicken would disappear from the shelves of your grocery store?  My guess is a lot.

This is where our grocery spend comes into play.  We can choose to spend our grocery dollars on a daily basis at stores that support local providers.  The best part is that this is not a change that requires a serious capital outlay—like buying an EV or installing solar panels—and it does not require large lifestyle changes—you are still shopping for groceries after all.

The goal is to find a locally owned retailer of groceries and shop there as much as possible.  It’s a little like George W. Bush imploring the American people to go shopping after the attacks on September 11th.

It’s a little more complex than that, but the idea is extremely simple.

In my household we spend an average of ~$770 per month on groceries based on actual spend going back to last summer.  Yes, I have a problem with tracking things on spreadsheets.  My goal is to direct as much of that monthly spend to local retailers and providers of food.  It is fairly easy for me to shop local since I have access to an excellent cooperative grocery store—NewPi—and a vibrant selection of farmers’ markets when the weather improves.  I would contend that most people also have access to these kinds of retail outlets.  Take a moment and find your local coop.

As it stands right now for the year, our household spend is ~40% local.  There is much room for improvement.

Drinking Local in the Fourth Quarter of 2019

Here is how my fourth quarter 2019 beer consumption worked out:

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You will notice two trends: heavy on the Big Grove Brewery and a tilt toward Colorado beers at the end of the year.

The emphasis on the Big Grove Brewery beers was due to holiday parties and wanting to be a crowd pleaser.  The three six packs ended up as mixed six packs—two of each kind—for a gift exchange.  Needless to say, my gifts ended up getting “stolen” the most.  Genius.

The Colorado tilt is all about location, location, location.  I spent Christmas break in Grand County, Colorado and these were the beers that were on tap or in the small liquor store by our condo.  I was said to not see any Outer Range Brewing on tap anywhere, but I managed.

It was a “no claws” kind of year as I managed to avoid the hysteria and mania of the summer of hard seltzer.  Seriously, does anyone actually enjoy those monstrosities?  The number of times someone has introduced a White Claw with the statement, “It doesn’t taste that bad” is staggering.  This is like people telling me that they chase a workout with a couple of Michelob Ultras.  What is the point of drinking a beer after working out if it does not actually taste like beer?

For 2020 I have some goals regarding beer buying and consumption that is going to up the ante from just being about “drinking local.”  Stay tuned.

The Downside of Snow

Unlike a lot of people I actually like snow.  I like snow so much that I spend my hard earned money to strap wooden sticks to my feet and fling myself down mountainsides covered with the stuff.  Come to think of it, when I describe my ski trips like that it does not sound so sane.  I digress.

The only problem that I have with snow is that it covers up my solar panels.  Like the two inches of snow that fell overnight:

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After last year’s snowy and cold January and February left my panels snow covered and non-productive I decided to come into this winter prepared.  Enter the SnoBroom:

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Okay, the SnoBroom is just the blue foam blade atop the extendable pole.  The extendable pole might be the true star of this story.  It extends to a maximum of 24’ which seemed like a lot right up until I was clearing snow for real:

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With the pole alone I was able to clear the first row of panels and a portion of the second row.  You can see on the closest panels that I spent some time with a step stool to get additional height.  Yes, I was able to nearly clear the panels.  No, I did not fully clear my array.

In the interest of full disclosure I need to come up with a better approach to clearing the array.  Snow, aluminum steps, and a little liquid moisture make for a precarious endeavor.  Practice makes perfect, right?

The other reason I did not push the issue this afternoon is that the temperature is supposed to be nearly 40 degrees with sunny skies tomorrow.  The snow will take care of itself this time.

The Vanity of Billionaires Running for President

If you live in Iowa right now you are used to seeing some things.  First and foremost as we approach January 2020 is that the airwaves—both radio and television—are flooded with ads for a rogue’s gallery of presidential hopefuls.  Heck, you cannot fire up a video on You Tube without being assaulted by at least one ad calling the sitting President a “fraud and a failure.”  Granted, the sitting President is a fraud and a failure but I digress.

For some reason the current political situation and relative wide open field of candidates vying to take on Donald J. Trump in 2020 has forced upon us billionaires as saviors.  Armed with virtually unlimited war chests to spend on campaigns these billionaires are, in their own estimation, here to save us from the perils of another four years of a self-professed billionaire.  Is it ironic that the only prescription these men have to save us from the tyranny of a rich man is to elect another rich man.

Depending upon the source, Michael Bloomberg kicked off his campaign to be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States with an ad buy in excess of $30 million.

Again, depending upon the source, Tom Steyer had spent almost $50 million on his long shot bid to become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

Furthermore, Andrew Yang has spent approximately $8 million on a campaign polling in the noise at the bottom of the candidate list.

Let’s not even get into Howard Schulz, the former CEO of Starbucks, who threatened us all with his idea of running for President of the United States.

The vanity of these men is outstanding.  What ideas do Bloomberg, Steyer, Yang, or Schulz bring to the table that are not already being discussed and debated by candidates with years of political experience under their belts?

Their entire logic for running for President of the United States is that as very rich men they are uniquely suited to solve the problems of the United States of America.  You know who else thought along those very same lines?  Donald J. Trump.  See how that is turning out for the country.

Being a billionaire or even a multi-millionaire—I am still waiting on the receipts to see just how rich Donald Trump actually is—makes you one thing…rich.  That is it.  There is no intrinsic quality to money that conveys wisdom or ability or drive or compassion or whatever.  If Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, Barron Trump, or the forgotten child Tiffany Trump inherit any money from their father it just makes them “lucky spermers” in the parlance of old money winemakers.

What positive benefit could these men create by focusing their efforts and resources away from this vanity project and toward something else?  Look at Beto O’Rourke, who realized fairly quickly that despite his zeal for the office there was a general lack of enthusiasm for him as a national candidate, focusing on a state wide voter registration effort in Texas to flip that state blue.  If you want to get rid of Republicans and their politics of destruction the first step is to get more people voting.  Look at what happened when turnout rates are high as during the 2018 midterm elections.  It turns into a bloodbath for Republicans because the majority of the population does not like their policies.

Imagine the tens of millions and probably soon to be hundreds of millions being spent on vanity campaigns being redirected.

October 2019 Solar Production and EV Performance

October 2019 was an okay month for solar production:

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As you can see, my solar array exceeded the production of 2017 but fell short of what was produced in 2018.  Those are the breaks.  All in, my household ended up down ~229 kWh.

Granted, a lot of this delta between consumption and production can be accounted for by the Nissan Leaf sitting in my garage.  For the month of October I drove 900.3 miles at an average efficiency of 5.4 miles per kWh.  Total electricity consumption to drive my EV was ~167 kWh.  This represents an approximate savings of 1,034 pounds of CO2 versus driving my prior vehicle.

For the year I have driven 6,794 miles with an average efficiency of 5.3 miles per kWh.  Assuming all of the electricity I have used comes from the grid at an average carbon intensity for my region I have saved ~7,767 pounds of CO2 from being emitted.

What is really a good sign is that I should really be in the black when it comes to consumption versus production within a month or so.  My local electric cooperative approved my revised interconnection agreement and an additional 8 360 watt solar panels are waiting to be installed.  A weekend with snow has kind of messed up everyone’s schedule around these parts so I am just waiting for the phone call from the installers.  Any day now.

An extra 62% production capacity will put me well above my consumption numbers, including my EV’s needs and a few electrification projects I have pending, for the foreseeable future.  For the year I estimate that I would be ahead of consumption by 1,858 kWh assuming similar weather patterns.  That is a lot of cushion to further decarbonize my household.