Tag Archives: recycle

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.

Friday Linkage 12/13/2019

It’s Friday the 13th and I am wondering how we got here.  By here I mean the current situation that we find ourselves in.  A situation where a literal madman is President of the United States and restrained solely by his incompetence.  A situation where a dime store version of that same madman is the elected leader of the United Kingdom and taking that country down a ruinous path purely for vanity.  A situation where we all realize, at some level, that our climate is changing because of our behaviors but we act as If we are powerless to change.

Are we doomed?

On to the links…

American Trash: How an E-Waste Sting Uncovered a Shocking Betrayal—You should just assume that whatever you drop off to be recycled is not going to be recycled.  Whether it is e-waste being shipped around the world to illicit dumps or plastic being burned in an incinerator the idea and reality of recycling in the West is broken.

The Dark Side of Recycling—Not buying as much stuff that needs to be recycled is the important thing, not figuring out ways to recycle our trash.  Remember: reduce, reuse, and recycle.  The first R is the most important because it is the most impactful.

Air Pollution is Much More Harmful than You Know—Air pollution is a prime cause of cognitive impairment in people who are exposed.  Naturally, the Trump administration wants to allow companies to pollute even more because…reasons.

New Energy Secretary: Trump has Directed Agency to Find ‘Different Ways to Utilize Coal’—When no one wants to use your product you have to find new markets.  Get ready to hear a lot about coal as Trump heads out on the never ending campaign rally.  It’s about the only thing his mind can get a handle on anymore.

Move Over, Coal: Gas now Emits More CO2 in U.S.—It was bound to happen as coal was replaced by natural gas.  However, it brings home the fact that while natural gas is better than coal it is not better than renewables.

Natural Gas Companies Call for Carbon Tax—When an industry is amenable to a tax on itself you know that it is trying to protect itself from something far worse.

Island Utility Aims For Two-Thirds Renewable Energy By 2020—Kauai can show us the future.

A 2.9-Megawatt Solar Project For 10 Schools & 24% Of Richmond Public Schools’ Electricity Needs—How much energy could we make if we covered all of our big buildings with solar panels.  Let’s say its twenty percent or so.  That means without using any additional land we could make twenty percent of our energy from existing buildings at the point of use.

Electric Car Battery Production Causes Less CO2 Emissions than Once Thought: Study—The holidays are not over yet, so you might end up in an argument with your Fox News loving drunk Uncle Carl who thinks that the production of a single battery for a Tesla is the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez running aground because Alex Jones told him so.

Nissan Showcases Brake Regen Tech With LEAF Christmas Tree—As the owner of a Nissan Leaf I wish there was a way for me to know how much energy I have recaptured through regenerative braking.  Like a little dash readout or something.

These 3 Supertrees can Protect Us from Climate Collapse—Anyone who knows me knows that I am a “tree guy.”  I believe that trees hold the potential to save us from a climate catastrophe if we are willing to help reforest the planet.  Whether it is forests of “super trees” or just basic trees in your suburban yard, it is trees that have the power.

The No-Flush Movement: The Unexpected Rise of the Composting Toilet—Is this really a thing?  I get composting toilets for people who do not want to deal with a septic system or who have an otherwise “off grid” lifestyle.

Will Buffalo Become a Climate Change Haven?—Will there be any havens when the climate crisis gets bad?

What Impact Does a Single Aluminum Can Make?

About once a week, sometimes more, I pick up a discarded aluminum can on the side of the road in the last few miles of my usual thirty mile out and back.  Cyclists are not the source of these cans, I believe, since most of them are on a stretch of road well-travelled by garbage trucks, work vehicles, and jackasses who litter.

Aluminum, as we all learned in elementary school when Earth Day was new and shiny, is easily recyclable.  The problem is that less than half of the estimated 100 billion aluminum cans per year are recycled.  Now, a 50% recovery rate is pretty good compared to plastic or paper but considering the ecological impact of turning bauxite into aluminum it is unacceptable.

It takes a lot of raw bauxite ore and energy to make aluminum.  Recycling the aluminum flips that equation on its head.  The old saw that we learned as kids was that the energy saved from recycling one can could save enough energy to run your television for three hours.  When you are concerned about the environment and love watching Thundercats on Saturday morning this is a big deal.  Now?  Not so much.  Here’s the deal.  It takes twenty times the energy to produce an aluminum can from raw ore versus recycling said can.  Put in kilowatt hour terms it takes ~4.2 kWh to make an aluminum can from scratch. So, every can you pull from the waste stream and put into the recycling stream saves about 4 kWh of electricity and, by extension, about 4 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

That is for a single can.  If I pick up a single can across the 25 or so weeks of “prime” riding season here in eastern Iowa the end result is a savings of about 100 kWh of electricity or 4 to 5 days of solar photovoltaic production from my rooftop array.  Start multiplying that over all of the people taking a ride and it adds up to some real electricity savings.  Think about getting closer to 100% recovery of the 100 billion aluminum cans manufactured in the U.S. every year.  Those are big numbers.

How big?  For every one billion cans or four billion pounds of carbon dioxide not emitted that is like doing any one of the following:

  • Over 388,000 of the average car driven for a year or
  • Almost 196,000 homes energy use for one year or
  • About 460 wind turbines production for a year
  • And a whole lot more…play with the numbers, it’s fun.

This is why it is important, in my mind, to pick up the cans I see littering the road and trail when I am on my bike.  A few seconds every ride is all it takes.  Heck, in Iowa we have a freaking deposit law so every can also nets you a nickel.  Do it for the nickels!

What’s in the Box: Nomadik June 2017

This is getting to become a trend.  My monthly Nomadik subscription box comes in the mail and I forget to write anything about it for at least two or three weeks.  My bad.

The problem is that I am not really getting a lot enjoyment out of what is coming in these boxes.  This month’s box—the theme is “camp kitchen”—really seems like someone was mailing it in over at Nomadik.  It is as if someone called up Sierra Trading Post or the guys running Sports Authority’s bankruptcy liquidation and said, “I need to fill a couple of hundred boxes with some kind of outdoorsy stuff.  What have you got collecting dust over there?”

Here is what you get when that is the question.

BananaGrams WildTiles:

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If you have not seen BananaGrams yet you have probably been playing too many games of Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity or whatever else it is that people play when they are not on their phones playing Candy Crush.  I guess it is a good game for people who like to travel since it comes in a fun banana shaped bag and requires little more than a flat surface to play upon.

As with some inclusions in prior months I already have a BananaGrams game in my collection of family friendly board games.  This little bag o’ fun is heading straight to my friends’ condo in Colorado.  Maybe some random weekend renters will get some use out of it.  Or I will play a game with my kids over Christmas when I convince them to finally stop playing Clue.  Seriously, how many times can a ten year old play Clue?

Wildo Camp-A-Box Light:

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Can we finally dispense with the legend that is the spork?  The spork does none of the tasks for which it is intended very well.  It cannot cut anything that your teeth cannot tear apart with ease.  It does not work as a spoon since one side is given over to tines and the other to an ineffective knife.  It does not work as a fork because the tines are so shallow you might as well use well chewed fingernails.

Nonetheless, we all love cutesy camping gear that promises to do more than one things or that folds down into a cylinder the size of a AAA battery even if the practicality of the item is in question.  Don’t believe me?  Try and actually use 90% of the multi-tools available, especially the ones you see in sponsored posts on Instagram.  Ugh.  A few decent screwdrivers, crescent wrench, pliers, and lockback knife are more useful without taking up considerably more space.

If you are serious about camping and are not a “go light” fanatic just get some actual utensils and actual dinnerware.  An enameled cup or two serve as great containers for any camp meal from eggs to fireside cobbler.

Simple Shower:

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I honestly thought this was something that just got dropped in the box by mistake before I read the little card that explains everything.  No packaging, which is fine, but it was really not tied together at all.

However, this is actually something I might use.  Fill a two-liter bottle—clean it first you degenerates—with cold water and spray yourself down after a long day hiking.  With an attempt on a 14er coming up in a week or so I am going to pack the Simple Shower for when I make it back to the truck.

I now have two months or two boxes remaining on my gift subscription to Nomadik.  Unless the company “comes strong” with something fairly compelling in the next two months I can see no reason to actually spend my heard earned money on an extension of the subscription.

Friday Linkage 7/17/2015

Where do the days go during the summer? Maybe it’s the lament of the modern age, but time does seem to just fly by.

On to the links…

We Broke a Whole Lotta’ Climate Records in 2014—For the record, it is not a good thing to be breaking these climate records. The world is getting hotter. The oceans can no longer absorb the excess heat. Weather is local and climate is global despite what clowns like James Inhofe say. Something is broken and we need to fix it. Fast.

How To Talk To A 5-Year-Old About Climate Change—What do you say, really? I am sorry that previous generations were selfish fools who stupidly left you with a big god damned mess to clean up?

Price of Solar Hits Record Low Again!—I keep looking at getting a solar panel installation on my roof and every time that I come back to the idea it seems like solar has hit a new price record.

Can Installation Innovations Keep Cutting Solar Soft Costs?—While panels have gotten a lot cheaper in recent years, the soft costs of a solar system have been a lot stickier. It just costs a lot of money to put people on your roof installing panels.

Gas Surges Ahead of Coal in US Power Generation—Nobody wants to be associated with coal anymore. The companies that mine coal are losing value like crazy. Power companies want to transition away from the dirty fuel. Customers do not want to pay for an energy source that is killing the planet. Can we finally start playing taps over the body of coal?

Wind Power Generates 140% Of Denmark’s Power Demand—Sometimes these numbers are a result of locally favorable conditions and not a product of long term trends. I still love seeing a country generate so much green power that it almost has to give it away to neighbors.

23% Of New Cars In Norway Now Electric Cars—I know Norway subsidizes the hell out of EVs, but I am impressed by the adoption rate.

Solar Provided 2.4% Of Australia’s Power Generation In 2014—2.4% might not seem like a big number, but it is huge for solar.

Australian Government Curbs Investments in Wind and Solar Energy—About the time you think Australia is on the right path deploying renewables and protecting the environment the government goes all retro on you.

‘Before and After’ Satellite Imagery Shows how Earth’s Prominent Features Change—I could spend hours looking at similar photo sets with sliders showing change over time. We live in the Anthropocene for sure.

Rotterdam may Pave its Roads in Recycled Plastic—Maybe there is finally a use for all of those single use plastic water bottles that seem to multiply when the weather gets hot.

SeaWorld Accused of Sending Employee to Infiltrate Animal Rights Protests—Really SeaWorld? Really?

You Must Read—Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade

Hard as I try to imagine the cars that this rubble once was, I can’t. It’s like standing in a supermarket meat section, staring at a package of hamburger and trying to imagine cows. [Page 229]

We, as consumers in Western countries, do not really recycle. We harvest. When we dutifully put our recyclables in one bin or seven, depending on the country’s recycling norms, we are just harvesting the raw material for the people who really recycle our old bottles, cans, Christmas lights, and so on. For most of us that bin of nearly-trash is out of sight and out of mind while we have assuaged our green guilt for another day.

9781608197910The words at the top are Adam Minter’s, who brings childhood memories of being the son of a scrapyard owner and a unique perspective to Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade, so it is surprising that sometimes he cannot see the trees for the forest when it comes to scrap. It speaks to the transformation that our end products go through once they leave our possession and become “trash.” I, like the author, am hesitant to call anything trash after reading this book because somewhere, usually in a developing economy hungry for jobs and cheap raw materials, has found a way to extract something of value for either reuse or recycling from our refuse.

Adam Minter’s father and grandmother ran a scrapyard in the Twin Cities, which sparked a lifelong interest in the colorful world of scrap. The story, like so many nowadays, really comes to fruition in China where the author details the workshops and companies that hoover material in the United States and other countries to fuel China’s economic growth. Without the recycling of scrap from the developed Western countries it is quite possible that China would not be enjoying the amazing economic growth of recent history.

It’s stunning the value that can be gleaned from surprising places. There are workshops in China that specialize in removing the copper wire from string lights. You know, those little twinkly lights that hipsters love to decorate patios with, have some copper but it’s wrapped in a lot of nearly worthless insulation. I say nearly worthless because someone figured out that slipper makers could use the plastic for the soles of inexpensive shoes.

The story about the recycling of cars surprised me the most. I always assumed that cars were recycled, but there was a period when rising wages post-World War II combined with a boom in the sales of cars created a situation where more cars were being junked than could be economically broken down into recyclable parts. Millions of cars polluted the landscape until someone came up with an effective way to shred the cars into little flakes of metal. It was only recently that we finally caught up to the backlog of cars that were abandoned and that was perhaps a function of the economic crisis that slowed the retirement of older automobiles. Also interesting was the fact that the average junked car has $1.65 in loose change. How come I can never find that money when I am looking for meter fare?

The thing that nagged at me the entire book was the thought of how much stuff was buried in landfills across the United States. Before it was economical to shred cars or mechanically separate mixed metals or strip metals from electronics that trash was probably buried. It’s just sitting somewhere, interred until we could figure out a way to economically mine and process the material. Are we sitting on billions of dollars of buried waste?

Junkyard Planet is a trip into a world most of us will never see or consider because we have no access or concept of how the scrap economy functions. Heck, most of us could not tell you where the closest junkyard actually is located unless we repair cars or have a predilection for odd Instructables that require things like washing machine motors.

Friday Linkage 1/31/2014

It’s going to be a light week of links.  I was hella busy closing my father’s estate and getting the house ready for closing, which is a good problem to have because I will no longer have that issue hanging over my head.  It just means I did not get to some of the fun stuff like I wanted to get done, like completing my keezer.  Being an adult means you can eat ice cream for dinner, but you also have to be responsible sometimes.

On to the links…

Anti-Fracking Activist Barred from 312.5 Square Miles of Pennsylvania—In a total WTF story for the week I give you Vera Scroggins.  She is an anti-fracking activist in Pennsylvania who was given a temporary restraining order barring her from any properties owned or leased by the area’s big fracker Cabot Oil and Gas.  This is an action taken against a protester who has broken no laws and acted in a peaceful manner.  So much for speaking truth to power.

Shell’s Arctic Offshore Drilling Ambitions Stymied In Appeals Court—Is there a worse idea lately than Shell’s plans to drill in the arctic?  As if last year’s debacle with the drilling platform breaking free of its tug and the dubious economic argument, this project has the distinction of being dumber than either Keystone XL or the Pebble Mine.

How do You Recycle a Solar Panel?—I think this is a great question to ask considering the proliferation of panels throughout the world.  Disposal of an item at the end of its usable life is a major issue when it comes to calculating the lifecycle cost of that item.

UK Should have 10 Million Homes with Solar Panels by 2020—Could you imagine a world where we get 40% of our power on sunny days from solar panels?  Apparently someone is Britain is looking forward to that day.

World’s Largest Wind Turbine Starts Generating Power For First Time—This turbine has a rated generating capacity of 8 megawatts.  That is over five times what the common 1.5 megawatt GE turbine you see dotting the landscape.  One of the bad boys can power over 3,000 American households.  Damn!

A Mafia Legacy Taints the Earth in Southern Italy—I have a relative who lives in Naples and he confirms that things are as bad, if not worse, than what is described in this article.  During my one visit to Italy I saw none of the horror scenes being described, but I may not have been looking.  It’s an awful story.  It also kind of sounds like the world Republicans in Congress would like us to have here in the U.S.

Chipotle Blurs Lines With a Satirical Series About Industrial Farming—Chipotle is killing it with their recent ad campaign.  The fact that this campaign is getting so much press can only be a good thing considering its send up of factory farming.

A Look Inside the Protein Bar—I have never understood people’s obsession with finding a packaged alternative to otherwise satisfying foods.  Like the article says, wouldn’t a sandwich with the same amount of protein be more satisfying than a single foil wrapped bar?

Low Glare Lights a Hit on the Ski Slopes—These Snow Bright lights are wicked cool.  In college I worked for a company that built custom lighting rigs for various applications and we used magnetic induction lamps once.  Could not figure out why these strange bulbs were being used.  Now I get it.

The Compost Bowl? Food scraps to be collected at MetLife Stadium—I always wondered if those bizarre stadium nachos were compostable.  I guess we will find out soon enough.  My money is on the cheese still being recognizable years down the road.