Tag Archives: recycling

Friday Linkage 3/13/2020

If there is one thing that was not going to reassure the American people it was Donald Trump giving an address from the Oval Office.  It kind of went like this:

remain calm

If there is any toilet paper left in any big box store after last night I would be surprised.

On to the links…

How Big Oil and Big Soda kept a Global Environmental Calamity a Secret for Decades—If there is one aisle of the grocery store that I wish I could eliminate overnight it would be the soda aisle.  It is usually an entire aisle filled with sugary beverages that bad for our health that are packaged in single use plastic bottles and cans.

Coronavirus Could Cause Fall in Global CO2 Emissions—It’s not a good thing that we are dealing with coronavirus.  However, maybe it will make us realize that we can reduce our global carbon emissions without reducing our standard of living too dramatically.

Three Charts that Explain What Coronavirus is Doing to Climate Emissions—This can give you an idea of what is happening.  It is actually part of a long historical trend, not surprising, where crises lead to depressed greenhouse gas emissions.  The question is what happens afterward.

Carbon Emissions Fall as Electricity Producers Move Away from Coal—Natural gas and renewables are eating coal’s lunch.  It is my hope that the next time natural gas prices spike that utilities really lean into renewables and we see the same death spiral for natural gas.  A boy can hope, right?

The Coal Industry Has Lost Almost One Thousand Jobs Since Trump Became President—Somewhere, someone is wondering just when is Donald Trump going to make “coal great again.”  It is not going to happen, but do not let that stop people from believing.

Virginia Becomes the First State in the South to Target 100% Clean Power—Virginia may geographically be “in the south” but its politics have been trending more like a northeastern blue state for years now.

The Climate (and All of Us) may have Dodged a Big Bullet, All Thanks to Trump’s Incompetence—Our collective future hangs on the incompetence of “Trumplicans.”  These people are so bad at their job that just figuring out what they failed to accomplish will probably take the next administration months to figure out.

As the World Burns, Americans Buy Bigger Cars—I wish we would just stop this delusion of SUVs, crossovers, or whatever the marketing people decide to call butched up wagons.  As the drive of a compact Nissan Leaf I can tell you the car pretty much handles every daily task that I could ask of it.  Hauling bags of softener salt back from the store?  Check.  Taking my bike to a trailhead for a group ride?  Check.

Minneapolis Bets on Walking, Public Transit to Overtake Driving by 2030—If Minneapolis, a city known for a long and miserable winter, can develop a workable transit plan that includes walking then it is my belief that any city in America can pull off the same trick.

How Heat Pumps can Help Fight Global Warming—It’s about efficiency and heat pumps are wicked efficient.  Heat pumps are also a part of the deep electrification path for our economy because they use electricity rather than natural gas to produce heat for your home.

How South Korea Is Composting Its Way to Sustainability—If South Korea can pull off a nationwide increase in composting then the United States should also be able to pull this off.

UK’s Lost Sea Meadows to be Resurrected in Climate Fight—When I see articles like this I wonder how easily and cheaply we can scale some climate solutions.  Seriously, this is a guy seeding shallow water with a bag towed behind a small motorboat.  Are you telling me that a few million dollars could not put a ton of people to work doing this across whole countries?

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 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?

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 9/6/2019

If you have a Sharpie and you are the President of the United States then anything is possible:

MW-HQ712_trumpm_20190904181037_ZH.jpg

It is an old trope to ask someone what the right wing would have said or done in the wake of President Obama doing the same thing, but can you imagine the cerebral hemorrhage that Sean Hannity would have had in this case?

We live in strange times.

On to the links…

15 Things a President can Actually do to Tackle the Climate Crisis—It’s not like number fifteen on this list is ever going to happen.

Cedar Rapids Electric Bill Could be Slashed in Half from New LED Lighting in Downtown—It’s a small change, but why hasn’t every city in America switched to LED streetlights?

Trump Rolls Back Regulations on Energy-Saving Lightbulbs—Does Donald Trump just sit in his private residence during “executive time” and mumble things like, “LEDs…bad…horrible…old, hot lights…good.”  In a little more than one year and four months someone with half a brain can take the executive pen and reassert some sanity.

Economics of Electric Vehicles Mean Oil’s Days As A Transport Fuel Are Numbered—Anyone who drives an electric vehicle will agree with this hypothesis.  In my case, I spend approximately 2 cents per mile to drive my Nissan Leaf versus approximately 15 cents per mile to drive my Ford F150.  Even if I doubled the mileage of my truck it could not compete.

China’s Very Ambitious Transportation Revolution—China was supposed to be the “swing” consumer for fossil fuels as developed Western economies transitioned to cleaner energy.  Looks like China is going to try and just bypass the whole dependency on fossil fuels stage of economic development.

While ‘Zombie’ Mines Idle, Cleanup and Workers Suffer in Limbo—Coal companies do not care about workers or the communities that they leave behind when they close up shop.  Coal executives fly away on private jets after paying themselves while leaving workers high and dry.

The Feds Tried to Make an Example of a small Washington Coal Mine. It Didn’t Work.—Twenty years later and the job is still not done.  Maybe it would be best if we just left the coal in the ground and found another way to make electricity.

Ireland Will Plant 440 Million Trees By 2040 To Combat Climate Change—If Ireland can plant 440 million trees in a little more than twenty years what could the United States achieve?  Okay, probably nothing in the short term with Republicans and Donald Trump hanging around.

The Disturbing Hypothesis for the Sudden Uptick in Chronic Kidney Disease—Climate change will come for our chocolate and coffee.  Climate change is also coming for our kidneys.

Holy Cross Energy Eyes Complete Decarbonization after Striking New Wind Energy Deal—Big utilities, small utilities, rural electric cooperatives…the list goes on and on but the trend is the same.  The tools to free our electricity production from the tyranny of fossil fuels are available and cost competitive.

The Best Place for Harvesting Solar Energy Is Not Where I Expected It to Be—I remember reading about a French pilot project that combined solar canopies over high value crops like grapes.  That project showed the viability of the idea.

One Very Bad Habit Is Fueling the Global Recycling Meltdown—I see this all the time in my neighborhood where people put all kinds of random crap in the curbside recycling bins.  Styrofoam packaging?  Yep.  Resin chairs?  Yep.  Christmas light strings?  Yep.

Banning Mini Shampoos from Hotels Won’t Really Reduce Plastic or Save the Environment—We are just nibbling around the edges of our problems with promises like these.

Tyson Foods Invests in Plant-Based Shrimp Company—I do not know if plant based shrimp is any good, but I know that plant based foods are a real trend when the people at Tyson Foods are putting their money behind the trend.

Friday Linkage 7/26/2019

The heat and humidity finally broke here in eastern Iowa this week and we got to open the windows.  Okay, we opened the windows in our house but it seems like everyone else still has their air conditioning running full blast.  Naturally, this includes my neighbors who run their air conditioning even when it is sixty degrees outside.  It must be an ice box inside that house.

These are the same neighbors who complain about their high electricity bill.  So it also makes sense that these same neighbors would install a hot tub.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, says high electricity costs quite like a hot tub.

On to the links…

American Green—If there is one thing that I wish people would do it is that they stop obsessing—in terms of both time and money—about the lawns surrounding their homes.  Who cares if a stray dandelion shows up or some clover has established itself?  Who cares it some spots start to brown out when the mercury hits 90 degrees?

New York Just Passed the Most Ambitious Climate Target in the Country—There is no climate leadership at the federal level, so it falls to cities and states to move things forward.  Luckily, the states most likely to move forward also happen to be home to a lot of people and a lot of economic activity.

Refinery Explosions Raise New Warnings About Deadly Chemical—If a Tesla or other electric vehicle catches fire there is sure to be a whole raft of coverage.  If a normal ICE car bursts into flames or an oil refinery explodes there is little coverage.  Never mind the potential of a truly catastrophic incident at an oil refinery.

It’s Just Good Business: Even Red States Are Dumping Coal for Solar—I think that this needs to be the response for anyone who gets asked a question about solar power.  It’s just good business.

Waste Only: How the Plastics Industry Is Fighting to Keep Polluting the World—Plastic is bad.  It may be a necessary evil in some applications, but limiting the use of plastics is the ultimate goal.

Cigarette Butts are the Most Pervasive Man-Made Pollutant—My late father, a former smoker who quit in his thirties, hated cigarette butts with a passion and had a more hot burning hate for the people who threw their cigarette butts about with abandon.  His whole theory was that cigarettes with filters should be banned, all cigarettes should be called coffin nails, and the package should say “Smoke More, Die Younger.”

10 Ways the Bicycle Moved Us Forward—The bicycle is a humble solution to a lot of problems.  As we design ever more complex solutions to our problems we need to remember that easier solutions exist.

In Madrid, a Car Ban Proves Stronger Than Partisan Politics—I know it will come as a shock to most right wing reactionaries, especially the ones on Fox News who want to cover themselves in a cologne called Fossil Fuel Funk, but people actually like living in places where cars are not valued over people.  Remember, in most modern offices your car will be allotted more space in the parking lot than you will be inside the building.

How ‘Corn Sweat’ Makes Summer Days More Humid—If you live in Iowa during the summer you understand this phenomenon all too well.  The humid haze that rises from the endless fields of tall corn in July and August is like an oppressive ghost moving through the landscape.  Maybe I spend too much time cycling along these same fields in the heat.

Dunkin’ Adds Beyond Meat’s Sausage to its Menu, Starting in New York—Are we turning the corner into a world where renewable energy is the cheapest source of electricity, people actually care about the climate, and non-meat alternatives are commonplace?  I sure know that non-meat alternatives seem to be everywhere.

Can You Taste the Difference Between Plant-Based Meat and Beef? Burger King Sweden is Betting No.—This is what the people behind calling plant protein “meat” in Arkansas are worried about.  Okay, their actually being funded by a locally powerful meat industry to take this fight on but their paymasters fear this outcome.

Has Wine Gone Bad?—When reading Napa at Last Light by James Conaway I was struck by some critiques of wineries for the total lack of environmental consideration.  The gist was basically that if anyone actually knew just how much of a bad actor the wine industry was in California it would cripple the industry’s marketing efforts.

The Budweiser Beer Empire was Built on Debt. Now it’s Racing to Pay it Off—Geez, I cannot imagine how building an empire through acquisitions fueled by debt could ever go wrong?