Tag Archives: plastic

Friday Linkage 1/17/2020

It’s a little more than two weeks away from the Iowa caucus and things are getting testy.  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are feuding about electability.  Tom Steyer is being Tom Steyer.  For some reason people actually think Joe Biden would make a good president.

All of this must be placed against the backdrop of the ultimate goal—defeating Donald Trump in such a demonstrative way that the MAGA hats become just as toxic as Confederate battle flags and white hoods.

On to the links…

Good News, Even in Darkness—It is easy to be pessimistic and it is hard to be optimistic in today’s world, but we must address things in a positive way.  We are in a dark valley.  There is light on the horizon.  We must keep pushing forward.

Negative Carbon Dioxide Emissions—This is the goal.  Not net zero, but net negative.

BlackRock’s Larry Fink: Risks from Climate Change are Bigger than the 2008 Financial Crisis with no Fed to Save Us—When the manager of a massive fund—over $7 trillion dollars in assets managed—says that the investment community better be prepared for climate change I am hoping that the markets listen.

The Solution to the Plastic Waste Crisis? It isn’t Recycling—The solution is to stop buying plastic stuff.  Actually, the answer is to just stop buying so much stuff.  Don’t worry about being a savage minimalist who excises the material demons from their home.  Just stop buying stuff and the space will naturally open up through attrition.

The Dark Side of ‘Compostable’ Take-Out Containers—Even if it is compostable, it is probably ending up in the trash.  If it is not reusable, it is probably ending up in the trash.  Plus, it’s really only compostable in specialized facilities as opposed to the black plastic bin in your backyard.  Trust me, I put one of those corn based forks in my bin as an experiment.  Two years later it still looked pretty much the same.

US Electricity: Solar Up 15%, Wind Up 9%–Now, imagine that these trends keep happening year after year.  The back of the envelope calculations show that solar would double every 4.8 years and wind would double every 8 years.

Iceland Reaches 25% EV Market Share! When Will The World Follow?—The world will follow when we price gasoline according to its impact on the climate.  Once all the externalities are accounted for there is no way people are going to pay a per gallon price for gasoline that is orders of magnitude higher than what we see at the pump today.  Just imagine if the United States figured out how much we spend on military adventures in the Middle East and applied that to each gallon of gasoline sold in the country?

Soil Health Hits the Big Time!—The dirt under our feet is full of possibilities.

Can New Bus Lines Chart a Course to Better Travel Options in the West?—The United States is never going to have the passenger rail network like Europe.  That is a good and a bad thing.  It is good when you consider that Europe will never have the heavy rail cargo network of the United States.  It is bad when you consider that transportation emissions from personal vehicles is such a big part of our climate change puzzle.  Maybe modern bus lines could help fill the gap.

Your $14 Salad’s Not as Eco-Friendly as Advertised — but Sweetgreen’s Trying—The key thing is that the company is trying.  We all need to keep trying.  BTW, who buys a $14 take out salad?

Panera Is Making Its Menu More Plant-Based to Become More Sustainable—The more mainstream vegetarian and vegan options become the better off we are as a society.  There is no reason why every fast food hamburger should not be some version of a Beyond Burger or Impossible Burger.  Why?  These are not the pinnacle of taste and texture.  Plus, the volumes of beef that would be replaced are tremendous.

Skiing is Better Without Performance Trackers—Apps that track our performance on the hill are killing the vibe.  I spent this Christmas break skiing without the Epic Mix app telling me how many vertical feet I had skied or what “badges” I had acquired.  It was freaking glorious.  Do you know what I thought about the whole trip?  Skiing.

Local, Direct, and Packaging Neutral Beer

The “middle” of the craft beer market is dead.  Successful craft brewers caught between the mega corporations like AB InBev and the nimble locally focused brewers are either selling to the big boys (e.g. New Belgium Brewery) or downsizing (e.g. Boulder Beer).  Heck, even the big boys are getting out of the craft beer game after realizing that nationally distributed craft beers are not really attractive to a consumer with hyper local choices.  Yes, I am looking at you Constellation Brands.

Instead of forking over money to a faraway brewery that might actually just be a faraway mega corporation, make your beer consumption as local as possible.

Better yet, make your beer consumption a direct affair.  Buy your beer directly from the brewery.  Do not involve a distributor or a retailer.  Make every dollar go to the brewery.  It can make a difference.  The most successful new breweries—over the past five years or so—seem to be the ones who operate with a taproom as their primary source of revenue.  Why?  It cuts out the middle man and avoids the headaches of distribution.

Even when you buy local beer at the grocery store it potentially involves a number of middle men.  In some states it is possible for your local brewery to “self-distribute” but this is a hard road and really only works in a hyper local type of market.  Even in this instance there is the retail outlet’s need for some level of profit.

Going further, make your beer consumption a packaging neutral affair.

The old saw about recycling an aluminum can is that it saves approximately 95% of the energy compared to creating an aluminum can out of virgin ore.  This is usually equated to running a light bulb for an entire day or watching a television for a couple of hours.  Calculate a different way, recycling one pound of aluminum (approximately 33 cans or a “dirty thirty” of PBR) saves around 7 kWh of electricity.

However, even recycling that aluminum can uses energy and contributes to a global supply chain that uses a lot of energy.  The aluminum supply chain, unfortunately, does not have a 100% recovery rate as evidenced by the number of cans I pick up along my usual cycling route in a given week.  Removing any volume from this supply chain is an environmental win.

By utilizing a reusable package, in this case a glass growler or “meowler,” removes aluminum packaging from the waste/recovery stream.  I am sure that there is a calculation to figure out how many times I need to use a growler to compensate for its own production costs in terms of energy, but given that I have owned the same growler for almost five years I am going to consider those costs accounted for several times over.

The goal is to buy beer that is made locally, purchased directly from the brewery, and in packaging that is reusable.  Local, direct, and packaging neutral.  It’s the future.

Friday Linkage 1/3/2020

Welcome to 2020.  What will the New Year and new decade bring?  I have a list of things I hope will happen, but I do not want to jinx the possibility of actual progress by writing those things downs.

I hope that everyone had an enjoyable holiday and is ready to make 2020 a great year for all people.

On to the links…

Trump Vs. Toilets (And Showers, Dishwashers And Lightbulbs)—This is like your drunk Uncle Carl from Thanksgiving getting to be President of the United States.  Just when you think the situation is at its nadir, Trump steps up to the podium and delivers a new stream of drivel.  What will the campaign bring out from this monster?

Rise Of The Wind Turbines – The Force Is With Them And They Are Great For America—Trump may not like wind turbines because a wind farm in Scotland “mars” his view from his golf course, but the verdict is that wind turbines are good for the economy and the environment.

Who’s Gonna Win The Race For Floating Offshore Wind Turbines, Maine Or California?—Whoever wins the race means that we all win as offshore wind comes online in the United States.  If you thought onshore wind was a good thing then you will love offshore wind.  Imagine wind turbines bobbing near markets along the eastern seaboard.

Fossil Fuels Fall to Record Low Proportion of UK Energy Mix—Almost 39% of electricity from renewables seems amazing for an entire country for an entire year.  We’re not talking about a day or a week or a month, but a year.

With Most Electricity From Renewables, South Australia Has Lowest Utility Cost—So, in South Australia you get more than 50% of your power from renewables and it has the lowest cost compared to others.  What am I missing?

California Will Require Solar Panels on All New Homes. That’s Not Necessarily a Good Thing.—I am of the mind that this is a good thing.  Yes, California will overbuild solar capacity but this will lead to innovations in demand shifting and energy storage.  If the power is cheap or free, someone will figure out a way to use it at a different time when it would be expensive.

Coal-Killing Long-Duration Energy Storage For Vermont—We are already starting to see solutions for so-called long-duration energy storage.

3 Breakthroughs That Could Shake The Energy World In The Next Decade—I think that number three on this list could also be a big factor if the reverse is true.  Rising fossil fuel costs could accelerate the transition to renewables.  Nothing will make an EV looks more attractive than $4 a gallon gas in the United States.

Shipping Fuel Regulation to Cut Sulfur Levels Comes into Force—Maritime shipping emissions are a big deal because each of these ships is like an outdated power plant spewing pollution out its smokestacks.  Considering how much global trade is moved via ships this is one of those “boring, but important” changes.

10 Ways That Car Dealerships Can Step Up To Sell Electric Vehicles—The number one thing missing from this list is for most dealerships to stop being dicks to their customers.  If you want to understand why customers are willing to buy relatively expensive cars sight unseen from an app—yes, I am talking about Teslas—walk into the average new car dealer and tell me about the experience.

The Missing 99%: Why Can’t We Find the Vast Majority of Ocean Plastic?—Man, this is just depressing.  When future generations look back on our time period they will just shake their head at the sheer stupidity of people in general.

A Recycling Renegade Is Out of Prison—and Ready to Tackle the Electric Vehicle Battery Crisis—Eric Lundgren went to jail because of a quirk in digital copyright law, but now he is back with a plan to tackle the rising tide of battery refuse from the EV industry’s growth.  I wish him the best of luck.

Replanting Britain: ‘It’s About the Right Tree in the Right Place’—Reforestation is one of the best tools that we have to fight climate change, but the experience in Britain shows that it is not as simple as just planting a tree wherever.  However, it is instructive that we have the knowledge to actually do reforestation right.

Snow Machines and Fleece Blankets: Inside the Ski Industry’s Battle with Climate Change—The future does not look too good for those of us who enjoy winter sports.

Mystery Pork Will Soon Hit The Stores—This reminds me of the quintessential line from Fast Food Nation: There is shit in the meat.

Those ‘Flushable’ Bathroom Wipes May not be so Flushable After All—Can we just stop using these damn things?

Go Slow to Help Slow the Climate Crisis—I think this is a solution to so much more than the climate crisis.  We are all stuck in a loop where we think going faster will help us accomplish more, but all it does is put pressure on us to do more faster.  It is a treadmill you cannot escape.

Wily Coyotes Take up Residence at Trump’s New York City Golf Course—I can already see the campaign rally rant about coyotes.  Trump will stand at the podium and riff about how it used to be glorious when you could just shoot animals onsite.  Donny Jr. will take the stage with his lame ass beard and pressed camouflage attire to rile up the crowd while asking daddy for permission to rid the golf course of this animal invasion.  It may sound like a fever dream, but it is oh so plausible.

Friday Linkage 11/22/2019

This week one of the true giants of craft brewing announced a sale to a multi-national beverage conglomerate.  Fort Collins based New Belgium Brewery–the people behind Fat Tire Amber Ale–sold out to the group behind Kirin. This is the fourth largest craft brewery in the United States and the eleventh largest brewery overall.  Middle craft beer is dead. Support your small local brewery. Like today.

On to the links…

Keystone Spill Has Affected Nearly 10x More Land Than Was Estimated–Every time that someone brings up an argument in favor of an oil pipeline, especially the Keystone XL pipeline, just link to this article.  There is no such thing as a perfectly safe and secure oil or gas pipeline. The only perfectly safe and secure oil or gas pipeline is one that is not built.

See How Good the World Could be in 2040—If We Act on Climate Solutions Now–Lost in a lot of the pessimism about climate change specifically and the state of the world in general is that a future dystopia is not the only path available to use if we act.  Sure, right wing fanatics would have you believe that accelerationism–which is really just a pet theory for apocalypse nuts–is driving the world to the end times but they are wrong.

How Much Energy do We Really Need?–This is the kind of question that we need to be asking because it cuts at the very heart of the perpetual growth arguments of modern economic theory.  If we do not need to grow in perpetuity than we will need less energy than forecast in the future.

How to Cut U.S. Carbon Pollution by Nearly 40 Percent in 10 Years–Common sense and simple solutions to accelerate the climate change solution are available.  The problem is that a portion of this country’s politicians have no incentive whatsoever to embrace anything other than reactionary politics.  This is how we got a place where a conservative solution to health care coverage became the right wing’s bugaboo. We are doomed as long as these people are given any agency.

A Carbon Tax Won’t Kill the Economy–When someone at Forbes writes this article you have to wonder if the worm has turned.  It could also be that even the people at Forbes realize that America is relatively undertaxed and a carbon tax would go a long way to addressing destructive behaviors.  Somewhere Grover Norquist is hiding under his bedsheets and crying.

Two of America’s Biggest Coal Plants Closed this Month–This is why we keep pounding away at the problem by increasing efficiency, installing solar panels, and fighting for the true costs of fossil fuels to be included in the price of extraction.  Even with a president in the pocket of coal barons the ancient fuel is dying. Here is the damning paragraph from the article:

Together, the two retirements equal all the emission reductions from coal plant shut-downs in 2015, a record year when 15 GW of mostly smaller and older units were shuttered, reports Scientific American. Last year, 14 GW were mothballed. In 2020, more are on the way, including Kentucky’s Paradise plant.

The Paradise plant in Kentucky represents 1.15 GW of coal fired capacity.  It’s closure and another TVA asset in the region will save customers over $300M.  That is economics, bro!

5 Things to Know about Fighting Climate Change by Planting Trees–Here is the thing that gets me about this debate: the argument is that planting trees is not as good as some people make it out to be.  Okay, but that does not mean it is not beneficial. Just because the upside potential is lower than advertised does not mean that it ceases to be a worthwhile endeavour.  What is the downside?

When Residents Support Solar—Just ‘Not in My Backyard’–This is the worst.  Supposed liberals and supporters of green energy who just want to put energy production somewhere else.  Take responsibility for your consumption.

EasyJet Flights are Now Carbon Neutral–Carbon offsets are kind of the crack cocaine of the climate mitigation movement.  Easy to consume and oh so addictive. “See, we are carbon neutral,” a company can say without really addressing the underlying environmentally destructive behaviors that drive their business.

This Man Wants to Convince America Beef is Healthier than Meatless Burgers–This is also a man who worked for years to convince the American public that smoking was not a public heath crisis.  This is the same kind of man who will tell you industrial pollution is actually good for you. This is the same kind of man who will sell his soul for a few extra dollars in his bank.  This is the kind of man who needs to rot in hell.

There Are 2,000 Untested Chemicals in Packaged Foods — and It’s Legal–In some dark basement somewhere Richard Berman is swimming in his ill gotten gains like an oily Scrooge McDuck wondering if he should contact the packaged food industry to begin a campaign of telling us that untested chemicals in our food are really good for us.  Or, we could just avoid the middle aisles of the grocery store.

Los Angeles Places Largest Single Electric Bus Order In US History — 130 BYD K7M Buses–I am really waiting for the day when orders like this are just commonplace.  Or when orders of a much larger magnitude are what we report about. Still, progress.

Dominion Energy’s Electric School Bus Program Offers Valuable Vehicle-to-Grid Lesson–When electric buses are idle those big batteries can be part of the solution in shifting the mismatch between the supply of renewable energy and the demand for electricity.

Thermal Camera Reveals Efficiency Gap Between EV And ICE–About this time of year I wished I had a little bit of that wasted energy for heating my Nissan Leaf.

The U.S. Natural Gas Boom Is Fueling A Global Plastics Boom–Cheap natural gas equals cheap plastic.

Fast Shipping isn’t Great for the Environment— 7 Ways to Cut the Carbon Footprint on your Amazon Deliveries–Until Amazon is rocking a fleet of Rivian electric delivery trucks you are stuck with getting stuffed shipped the old fashioned way–heavily carbon intensive.  The advice is really simple: ship it together and ship it slowly. Or just stop buying stuff online.

Friday Linkage 11/15/2019

I know that I have said this before, but I feel like we are living in a “bizarro” world where we all should have goatees and act in ways contrary to our nature.

How have we gotten to a point in America where the defense of a sitting president using his office’s power for personal gain is defended as “not as bad as it could be?”  That was almost the literal defense that was provided by the Republicans chosen lawyer in the House’s impeachment proceedings.

If that is the bar for criminality than the U.S. prison system is about to get a whole lot less crowded.

On to the links…

Little Ice Age Lessons–Take a moment and read through the article while reserving judgement until you finish.  I might quibble with the details, but the idea that we have the ability to adapt to dramatically different climate conditions is a little ray of hope in a generally cloudy forecast.

Mike Pence’s Office Pushed to Reroute Foreign Aid to Favored Christian Groups–Just a friendly reminder that Mike Pence is a horrible human being.

If the US Military is Facing up to the Climate Crisis, shouldn’t We All?–Yes.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions To Rise Through 2040–Well, that is just kind of depressing.  It also underscores the need to cut emissions today.

US Energy Dept. Has A Solar Power Message For Coal: Get Lost!–Even the U.S. government understands that the economic case for coal is a lost cause.  This is a U.S. government agency under the thumb of the corrupt Donald Trump administration where coal companies are welcome.  What happens under a president that does not kowtow to coal robber barons?

Bob Murray: The Last Coal Baron?–We can hope.

Colorado’s Cleanest Energy Options are Also Its Cheapest–Renewable energy is cheap.  As states build out plans to decarbonize the economic benefits will become clear.  Add in the environmental benefits and you have a recipe for an economic and environmental transformation on par with the Industrial Revolution.

Berkeley scientists develop better batteries for storing renewable energy–Battery technology is not all about improving EVs.  The ability to store energy as a way to moderate the delta between renewable energy production and electricity demand is probably just as important for our decarbonized future.

Electric Cars are Changing the Cost of Driving–No oil changes.  Check. No fuel system.  Check. No complicated cooling system, transmission, exhaust, etc.  Check. As people drive EVs they come to realize that it is just a better way to motor.  Now if I could just get a BEV pickup truck.

Should You Even Bother Recycling Your Plastics?–This is why it is so important to reduce before reusing or recycling.  Plastics that are never introduced to the waste stream are the best kinds of plastic.

In Honolulu, An Ambitious Plastics Reduction Bill Is Moving Through City Council–Cities, especially cities on islands, are the climate laboratories of the 21st century.  Policies that would not be adopted in places like Omaha, Nebraska can be passed in island cities and proven to work.

Air Bubble Barrier Traps Plastic Waste in Amsterdam’s Canals–Some ideas are so simple that it boggles the mind that no one thought of this before.  How can we get a group like 4ocean to pilot these bubble barriers in several rivers, canals, whatever waterways across the globe?

Silvopasture: The Benefits of Integrating Livestock and Trees–There are more ways to skin the agriculture cat than we usually consider.  Livestock can be part of a system that helps to regenerate the landscape or produce renewable energy.  It is not always a zero sum game.

11 Unbelievably Easy Swaps To Be More Eco-Friendly–Imagine a world where we all woke up and did these eleven things?  Ok, for the dudes out there the whole diva cup thing is not applicable so pick an extra thing to do.

Friday Linkage 11/1/2019

It’s a white Halloween…

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Two days of measurable snow accumulation by October 31st.  Weird.

On to the links…

Offshore Windfarms ‘Can Provide More Electricity than the World Needs’This is some change that I can believe in.  How do we make the transition to offshore wind happen faster?

7 Ways Hurricane Sandy Started a Tidal Wave of ResilienceIt took New York City and a chunk of the eastern seaboard getting walloped for people to pay attention to resilience as a way to protect coastal communities and ecosystems, but it is a start.

‘Grand African Savannah Green Up’: Major $85 Million Project Announced to Scale up Agroforestry in AfricaIf only a portion of the projected benefits are realized this is a major victory.  As big as $85 million sounds, it is truly a drop in the bucket in a world where the US spends more than $2 billion a day on defense related accounts.

‘Green Gold’ Tree Offers Brazil Deforestation HopeWe must repair the damage caused by modern society.  Plant these trees now. Plant as many as possible. What is the downside?

The White House Wants Climate Change Off the G7 Agenda. It Doesn’t Really Work That Way.In Donald Trump’s world, Donnie Two Scoops gets what Donnie Two Scoops wants. Rules, decorum, whatever be damned.  It will be interesting to see how he handles a hostile impeachment process as the revelations of his administration’s misdeeds become common knowledge.  Then again this is a man who has a lawyer insist that the president is above the law.

Trump’s Public Lands Chief Wrote For A Cult Extremist’s MagazineThe Trump administration is so messed up and hurting for warm bodies that people aligned with Lyndon LaRouche are getting government posts.

4 Out of 5 EU Coal Plants Are Losing MoneyThe market has spoken and now the effort to phase out coal will run into the nasty business of politics.

Moody’s Sees “Significant” Drops In Powder River Basin Coal ProductionIt’s called a death spiral for a reason.  One company declares bankruptcy. This in turn raised the cost of capital for the existing coal companies.  This in turn caused their prices to rise. This in turn causes utilities and consumers to look at cheaper energy.  This in turn causes another coal company to declare bankruptcy.  

Murray Energy Is 8th Coal Company in a Year to Seek BankruptcyYou better believe that Robert Murray, the Dr. Evil facsimile who pals around with Donald Trump, will find a way to screw the American taxpayer through this bankruptcy.  My guess is that he will pay himself millions, vacate any pension or medical obligations, and find a way to dump clean up costs on the governments where these mines operate.

Kentucky’s Leaders Are Siding With the Coal Industry, and Its Poorest Residents Are Paying a PriceCoal companies have never cared about the people who mine coal or the land from which they mine coal.  They only care about money. The unholy alliance of Trump, coal company CEOs, and regular miners is coming to an end as everyone sees the fraud that is the blue collar billionaire and his corrupt cronies.

World’s Largest Storage Battery — 2.5 GWh — To Replace Gas Peaker Plants In QueensNo one wants a peaker plant in their neighborhood, but a battery can sit in a commercial building or the basement of a residential building just waiting to be deployed to smooth out the differences in supply versus demand on the grid.

No-Gold Perovskite Solar Cells Aim A Dagger At The Heart Of Fossil FuelsNuclear power was supposed to be too cheap to meter, but it looks like solar photovoltaic may actually get to that point if developments in perovskite solar cells can be commercialized.  

A $60,000 Solar Project, with No Money Down: A Colorado Program Helps Businesses Finance Renewable Energy ProjectsIf you hate solar power than a program like this should scare the living shit out of you.  Every panel that gets deployed is demand that is not coming back to the grid.

Heat (The Elephant In The Room)The path to deep decarbonization has to address our desire for heat.  Whether it is to heat our homes or the water with which we bathe this demand for heat drives demand for energy.  A lot of that energy is provided by fossil fuels.

‘Chocogedden’ is Fast ApproachingClimate change is coming for all of the foods that we love.  Maybe we should just get used to subsisting on soylent like “foods.”

It’s Time to Ban Filters on CigarettesThis was my father’s wish.  As a former smoker who occasionally lapsed in his middle age he felt that filters were a way to make people feel like smoking was not as bad for them as was the case.  And he hated the butts being thrown everywhere.

Stuff I Like: FloWorks Drying Rack

So much handwashing.  I have lamented the state of handwashing in my house now that my focus the past six weeks or so has been the reduction of single use plastics in things like school lunches.  What this really translates into is eliminating single use zipper style bags for sandwiches and grapes.  Two lunches equals four bags per day which works out to twenty bags per week.

Seven or so weeks into the school year and we have already saved approximately 140 bags from making their way into the landfill.  However, this has meant a change in the evening ritual.  For me it means an additional four things to wash by hand and leave to dry for the next day.  Unlike water bottles or coffee mugs, reusable bags are kind of a pain to wash and dry.  The drying aspect is especially troublesome.

Enter the FloWorks Drying Rack:

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This thing works and does not look like a refugee from a baby supply store.  It claims to be made from repurposed birch and ash wood and plywood scavenged from furniture makers in Canada.  Good on them, eh.

The whole thing also skinnies down to a cylinder that can be stored in a normal size utensil drawer:

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This is super handy when you are spending a day cleaning the kitchen counters and want everything out of sight.  I am not going all Marie Kondo in my kitchen, but I do love it when there is a place for everything and the clutter is eliminated.

It may not be the biggest change you make this year, but eliminating the disposal of plastic bags on a daily basis is a good place to make a dent in your consumption of single use plastic items.

Note: I purchased the FloWorks Drying Rack with my own funds and receive nothing in return from the manufacturer.  I also receive nothing in return from the linked store, which in this case is Amazon much to my chagrin.