Tag Archives: Starbucks

Friday Linkage 9/25/2015

The rides the past couple of weeks have been perfect. Just perfect. The temps are in the 70s to low 80s, the winds have not been too bad, and the crowds are gone. Especially on Saturdays when people are busy tailgating and watching college football, I have the trails and gravel all to myself. Unheard of in July.

On to the links…

Ban on Microbeads Offers Best Chance to Protect Oceans, Aquatic Species—The U.S. needs to enact a nationwide ban on plastic microbeads. Exfoliation is not worth the health of the oceans.

How Strict California Rules on Emissions led to Lower Cancer Risk—Regulation works. Plain and simple. Without emissions reductions California would still be blanketed in a horrible stew of smog and death.

Taxpayers Lose Billions to Coal Subsidies—Stories like this cannot get enough press. As taxpayers we pay billions to coal companies in order for them foul our air, dirty the water, and generally behave badly.

Balls of DNA Could Fix Geothermal Energy’s Biggest Problem—Geothermal is a great renewable energy resource because it is dependable enough to be considered “base load” like coal, natural gas, or nuclear. Unlike hydropower, the other base load renewable, large dams are not required and drought will not impact production. It looks like one of the thorniest problems may now be solved as well.

Obama Sets Up Cost Of US Solar Energy For Another Freefall—Fundamental research is being paid for that will drive down the entire system cost for solar. Remember when solar panels were only something you saw in Mother Earth News or on the lot of some burnt out hippie? Yeah, it’s mainstream now and will be more so in a few years.

Beyond Sprawl: A New Vision of The Solar Suburbs of the Future—We have a lot of development tied up in suburbs. This infrastructure is not going to go away and be replaced by dense, urban communities. How can we reform the suburb to make sense in a new era?

Tesla Gigafactory & Battery Improvements Could Cut Battery Costs 50%–A reduction of this magnitude would make some serious waves.

UK To Remain Offshore Wind Giant With Forecasted 23.2 GW By 2025, GlobalData—I keep wondering when offshore wind is going to explode. Maybe that time is now.

China’s Wind Energy Capacity To Triple By 2020, Says GlobalData—For all of the bad things China does—pollution out of control, corruption, political repression—they sure are going after this whole renewable energy thing with gusto.

Your Body Immediately After Drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte—It’s that time of year when the pumpkin spice comes out and everyone wearing Ugg boots seems to have one in their hands. Here is what that concoction from satan’s belly does to your body.

I Ate a Bunch of Vegan Cheese, and It Was Actually Quite Tasty—As someone who has a child who is lactose intolerant and loves cheese all of these products are going to be on my next shopping list.

If You Never Knew You Needed It, Don’t Buy It—This is a rule we all should live by when shopping. How do you think Costco works? How many times have you ended up with something that was not on your list because it seemed so cool and useful?

Imagine a World without Waste: It’s Possible with a Circular Economy—Would this even fly in the west anymore? The minute someone would talk about these concepts in a political space the cries of “socialist!” and “communist!” would ring out.

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Friday Linkage 9/21/2012

You know how weeks can just seem to get away from you?  That was this week for me.  I looked up and it was Thursday night.  Where did all of my time go?

When I get a chance this weekend I have some thoughts on beer—big surprise—and a new attempt at pickling garlic—yay!

On to the links…

Secret Life of Garbage—It’s Friday, so bring on the infographic:

5 Key Points Missed in Study on Organic Food—Recent studies on organic food have painted the portrait of it being nonsense elite buying behavior with no real impact.  As the shock has worn off people have begun to look at what the studies overlooked.

Saga of the Salton Sea–If you have ever been to the Salton Sea, it is a strange experience.  In the searing heat of the desert there is this odd oasis that is not really an oasis.  It’s an accident that has become a major environmental asset and liability at the same time.

U.K. Wind Farms Generate Record Power—On a national scale, wind power was providing 10.8% of the nation’s power.  Pretty awesome.

Republican Case for Supporting Renewable Energy—Do you think in the current climate that any national Republican politician would have the stones to step up and support renewable energy?  First, the withering criticism would come from Fox News blowhards and that whale Rush Limbaugh.  Second, the money would dry up from the fossil fuel industry.  Third, some “real” Republican who was more right wing than Attila the Hun would challenge them in a primary.  Nope, not a chance.

Companies Including Starbucks and Levi Strauss Promote Wind Power Tax Credit—The extension of the wind power tax credit seems like such a no brainer because it helps American industry, promotes clean energy, and had broad based appeal.  Except it does not make sense to obstructionist politicians.

What Runners Can Teach Us About Sustainability—I liked what the author was trying to get at talking about efficiency in a different lens.  Effective?  Maybe.

The Case of the Missing Bars—Apparently the effects of age and heat on the batteries of the electric Nissan Leaf have been misjudged by the manufacturer.  It is amazing what this group of enthusiasts was able to do in terms on logistics and methodology to prove their point.  I think the hard core enthusiast base for electric vehicles is going to be what allows the industry to survive until battery technology allows for mass adoption.  Don’t believe me?  Apple would have been dead in the mid-1990s if not for a dedicated base of fans who kept the company just above drowning.  Now look at Apple.

The Federal Government Vastly Underestimates True Cost of Pollution—How much does pollution cost us?  Until this externality can be accurately portrayed there is little hope in moving forward on climate change because all models will underestimate the impact.

Research Questions the Wisdom of Prescribed Burns—As forest fires grown in frequency and intensity there is going to have to be an increased focus on research about the topic.  For a “natural disaster” that has been with us since the beginning of time there is little knowledge about the long term impacts of various mitigation efforts vis a vis natural fires, etc.

How Green Was My Lawn—An interesting perspective on the environmental movement’s evolution.  It makes me want to check out the author’s book.

What is Reclaimed Urban Wood?

On a mission to get my daughter a treat following an excellent swim lesson—until you have spent the better part of a month trying to convince your four year old to dunk herself under water under her own volition you would not understand the sense of achievement—I came across this branded into a table:

What is reclaimed urban wood?  Using the poor man’s market research, i.e. Google, I found a company in Michigan (UrbanWood.org) that is trying to save dead or dying urban trees from a date with the chipper and diverting suitable logs to more enduring use.  Michigan has a major problem with the emerald ash borer, so there are a lot of dead and dying trees to remove from the landscape, but it looks like these guys are diverting everything including on-site red oak trees that got turned into the flooring for a new home.

This concept seems new, but it really harkens back to a time when local building products were what dominated.  If you lived in the Pacific Northwest the wood of choice was fir or spruce and so on.

The table at Starbucks—yes, I have given up the frequent habit as I posted before but this was a special occasion—apparently comes from a different source.  From what I can figure out these tables are made from lumber reclaimed from buildings.  There is a long trend of this as well, especially here in Eastern Iowa, as older buildings, especially barns, get torn down the old growth beams make attractive wood for other projects.

But what is the big deal?  It’s nice that this wood is not the result of some clear cut in the Canadian boreal or Sumatran jungle—those trees are usually destined to be pulped into paper to wipe our asses or wrap our fast food.  It’s sort of annoying that it needs to be branded onto the table’s surface like some badge of honor.

Just add reclaimed urban wood to the landscape of “eco” labels like organic, natural, fair trade, rain forest certified, shade grown, union made…

Why I Gave Up Starbucks

It was not about those pesky cups going into the trash.  Or, people wanting to bring their guns to the counter to order a mocha.

Nope, it was because I was driving east on Interstate 80 towards Ohio with a venti non-fat latte in my hand as I passed several semis bearing Kraft logos.  Why did it matter that I saw semis with images of Mac & Cheese?  It did not.  What mattered to me was that the semis also bore the logo for Feeding America, an organization dedicated to ending food insecurity in the United States.

So, I just spent $4 on a fancy cup of coffee and I spend the next hour looking at the logo of an organization dedicated to helping feed people in the United States.  If that will not make a person feel like a douche bag, what would?  How about this, according to the USDA approximately 11% of households in the U.S. do not have sufficient food to thrive.  Yep, in a country where obesity is a problem more than 1 out of every 10 households does not have enough food.  I know that global poverty advocates have often said that the problem with the food system is one of distribution not production, but this seems ridiculous.

Check out this infographic that overlays food insecurity, obesity, SNAP participation, and poverty:

Here is another way to visualize hunger in America and its impact on children:

With a lot of time on my hands because it takes ten hours without stops to get from eastern Iowa to central Ohio and my family dozes off in the car I spent the quiet time thinking about where I spend my money and what it means.  I am not a daily Starbucks person, so I never really felt any pangs of guilt over my occasional latte or the treats on the weekend with my daughter.  But, in my head I quickly figured that I was probably spending $500 a year on coffee or hot chocolate.

What does $500 really mean in the fight against hunger?  In eastern Iowa the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) runs a food reservoir to help people in need deal with the issue of food insecurity.  It’s one thing to gather up some cans of food and drop them off at a collection point.  However, look at the impact a monetary donation can make.  According to HACAP, a donation of $1 allows them to purchase approximately 100 pounds of food.  Not 1, not 10…100 pounds of food for $1!

You may feel good buying something from ConAgra or Kraft because those companies will donate a meal for every item purchased, but think about this for a moment:

My coffee habit represents 50,000 pounds of food.  That is approximately 25 tons of food.  25 tons of food for families in need or some coffee on Sunday morning?  Easy choice.  I will miss my lattes, but I can make a cup of coffee at home if it means that someone gets to eat.