Tag Archives: waste

Stop Buying Water for Your Shower

We all know that bottled water is bad.  It’s usually just tap water put into plastic bottles and dropped off in pallets at our local grocery store.  You end up paying dollars for something that costs cents when it comes out of the faucet in your home.  Add in the plastic waste and you get a bad environmental actor that no one wants to defend.

But what about your shampoo and shower gel?  Look at the first ingredient.  I am betting dollars to donuts that the first ingredient listed is water.  How much water?  Seventy to eighty percent depending upon the formulation. [1]  Shower gel is in the same boat and considering its rise to prominence over bar soap I am guessing that most people have multiple bottles of what is mostly water in their showers. [2]

Every one of those bottles of shampoo and shower gel are just a step up from buying bottled water.  I have always been a bar soap guy finding the entire loofah and shower gel combo unsatisfying on a number of fronts.  Foremost among those is what wondering what is lurking in the folds of that loofah that do not get clean.  Sorry for that image, folks.

Bar soap is the easy answer to shower gel.  Hell, it’s also one of the easiest things to get from a local provider because almost every farmers market I have been to over the past decade has a soapmaker or two.  Or you could get the soap that I like the bestPacha’s Dirty Hippie.

The shampoo angle seems a little harder until you do a little digging.  I would not have thought twice about it until a friend re-gifted me a Lush Seanik shampoo bar.   All I could remember thinking was why I did not come across this concept sooner.  Now, I do not care to afford Lush’s products although I do love their ingredients and social bent.  Once the Seanik bar ran out I bought some J.R. Liggett Old Fashioned shampoo bars and I am working through them currently.

Bar soap and shampoo bars come with none of the packaged plastic waste that comes from shower gel and liquid shampoo.  If we really want to make a change in the way we consume things we really need to examine the nature of the products that we buy and the packaging that those products come in.  A little paper wrapper seems like a much better solution than an empty plastic bottle.

 

  1. http://chemistscorner.com/how-shampoos-are-made/
  2. http://fortune.com/2016/08/25/bar-soap-declining-sales/
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Is that Salsa Safe to Eat?

You know the tyranny of the sell by date, right? You find a jar of peanut butter, salsa, frosting, etc. in the back of the pantry where it languished for several months or more and the magic date printed in barely legible writing has passed. Into the garbage, right?

Well, if you were a college student who did not subsidize a lavish lifestyle with student loans you are too familiar with eating something “past its date” and wondering the next morning if gastrointestinal distress is going to be your companion for the weekend. Does ramen ever really go bad?

EatByDate is you new handy resource to tell you how much past that expiration date the food in your pantry can be without posing a risk your stomach’s health. Remember, most of the dates on food are “sell by” or “best by” dates, which do not necessarily correlate to a date at which the food is no longer safe to eat. A lot of these dates are figured by the manufacturer for various reasons not related to food safety. Just because that bag of Doritos is stale does not mean that those Doritos are unsafe to consume.

For example, take peanut butter. In my house we buy peanut butter at a warehouse store because my two children sometimes go on binges where peanut butter seems like the only menu item. However, children’s taste buds are fickle and that second jar in a monster size two pack sits for a little bit too long or we somehow doubled up buying peanut butter. If you enter peanut butter into the search tool and clock on the first result a chart like this appears:

EatByDate Peanut Butter

A lot of other information is contained on the page relating to telling if the particular food item in question has spoiled and how long an ingredient can be in a recipe before going rogue.

This seems like a tool for the cost conscious among us, but it is also an important eco-tool considering just how much food we waste in the western world. Estimates vary, but in the middle of the spectrum it is estimated that between a quarter to a third of food is wasted. When you think about the estimates for the increased in food production required to feed a growing human population this inefficiency cannot be ignored.

Friday Linkage 2/6/2015

New York gets some snow and people freak out. Boston gets some snow and it is the first sign of the pending apocalypse. The upper Midwest gets some snow and a few planes get rerouted, school gets cancelled, and everyone goes sledding. Just saying.

On to the links…

Even If Your Kid Doesn’t Get Measles, It’s Gonna Cost You—Seriously people, we nearly eradicated measles as a threat to public health. Freakin’ Mississippi had a vaccination rate for measles that is over 99%. WTF is going on in California? Get your kids vaccinated. It is one of the home run success stories of modern medicine.

I Don’t Vaccinate My Child Because It’s My Right To Decide What Eliminated Diseases Come Roaring Back—The Onion may be a false news site with a satirical bent, but the tone of this pretend letter to the editor is spot on when it comes to the attitude of most non-vaccinating parents. The reasoning is a mish mash of pseudo-science that would find itself at home on fringe message boards and late night talk radio. The problem is that ignorance is a threat to everyone’s health.

Some Farms Tried To Keep Their Abuse Secret. Then The Drones Arrived.—Ag gag laws are bad and corporate farms will stop at nothing to stop you from exposing their dirty laundry. They have even attempted to reverse long standing precedence regarding taking photographs from public property. We need to keep pounding away on these awful companies.

Solar & Wind = 53% Of New US Electricity Capacity In 2014—I am waiting for the day when this number is 100% and the retirement of fossil fuel plants increases, but more than half is encouraging. Bring on the sun and wind. I am getting high on that funky yellow sun.

FutureGen Dead Again: Obama Pulls Plug On ‘NeverGen’ Clean Coal Project—This boondoggle clean coal project is finally dead after two presidential administrations and zero real progress. Coal cannot be clean. Ever.

Latin America Solar Market Grew 370% In 2014—Granted, it’s from a small base. However, the growth is real and it is a great start. Developing countries are great places for solar and other distributed renewables to leapfrog the paradigm of centralized power production because the infrastructure was never built.

Algeria Doubling Renewable Energy Target, Now 25 GW By 2030—Algeria is not a country that comes up often when speaking about renewable development, but it is blessed with abundant sun and a relatively concentrated population. Seems like a winner to me.

Most Of Hawaii’s Coral Recover From Mass Bleaching Event—There is hope that our ecosystems can recover from our stupidity, but the first step is allowing these ecosystems a breather. Instead we are doubling down on emissions and speeding toward ruin like a runaway train full of oil.

The Pro Dumpster Diver Who’s Making Thousands Off America’s Biggest Retailers—These stories always remind me about moving day in college. You could wait until the early evening and pick out some real treasures in the pile of stuff just tossed aside as students moved out of the dorms. Stereos, furniture, and more. We are a wasteful and stupid society.

The Wild Deer That Roam a Japanese City’s Streets—Why can’t our relationships with wildlife be more like this all over the world?

Cleaning up the Kitchen

For some reason I felt like conducting a purge this weekend. It rained for most of the day Saturday and when the rain stopped the humidity made it feel like someone was steam pressing your shirt while you wore it. So, I milled about the kitchen cooking a few things and just kind of staring at the accumulated detritus of various recipes and ideas gone wrong.

Why did I have so many packages of extra butter microwave popcorn when my family usually just eats a bowl of Tiny But Mighty from the Whirly-Pop? Never mind that the stuff might actually be hazardous to your health.

What were we doing with various containers of frosting and decorating items that had expiration dates as far back as three years prior? The mini M&Ms, chocolate stars, whipped fudge frosting, and strange confetti cake mix all went into the trash.

Before long I had discovered I had filled an entire tall kitchen bag with food that was long expired, potentially bad for me, or just plain mysterious. It felt good in the same vein as spring cleaning or taking all the stuff out of your garage to really get at the accumulated grime.

However, things took a decidedly unexpected turn this morning. We woke up to a refrigerator that had ceased to cool food sometime in the past twenty four hours. The freezer was okay, so it is likely just to be a problem with the defrost cycle or ice buildup near the ducts that blow cold air into the refrigerator. Regardless, we spent a good portion of the morning chucking room temperature yogurt because we had no clue how long it had been in that particular state.

Like the pantry I started to wonder why I had so many condiments and how old some of those sauces really were? What does one do with a quart of Panda Express orange sauce? I do not know nor do I care to discover an answer because that gloppy stuff went right into the trash. Ditto the various salad dressings that no one could remember purchasing. Really, when did I buy that Honey Dijon Wasabi salad dressing?

Looking at a completely bare refrigerator is an odd experience. One, it’s a great opportunity to clean all the drawers and shelves that rarely see a scrub brush. Two, it’s a great chance to really think about what food you keep around. Some social theorists believe that our refrigerators make us fat because we keep high calorie foods in easy to consume vehicles—think cheese sticks which should really be called little fat twigs—which would be impossible without huge refrigerators. As I restock my refrigerator over the next couple of weeks—assuming that it is as easy a fix as my friendly appliance repair person thinks it will be—I will be intrigued to see what makes the cut.

Is it a Better K-Cup?

I drink a lot of coffee.  Sometimes it even worries my six-year-old daughter who will ask, “Daddy, what do you drink besides coffee and beer?”  Fair question, little one, but the answer is probably not much else.

Normally, to satiate my desire for coffee during the five days a week I spend in the office I use a Keurig single serve machine to brew one cup at a time.  Instead of using disposable K-cups on a regular basis I use Solofill refillable cup.  It works pretty well and I get to choose the type of coffee that goes into my cup.  It also eliminates the waste associated with K-cups.

However, on the occasions where I want an additional cup of coffee and I am out of Solofills there is a cache of K-cups in a desk drawer.  On a recent trip to the store I noticed some inexpensive K-cups from Cameron’s Coffee and decided to give them a shot.

Cameron’s Coffee, a roaster out of Minnesota, is actually not producing K-cups but an alternative:

Camerons Pod

It’s a rigid plastic ring with a simple filter suspended from the aforementioned plastic ring.  Unlike actual K-cups these little guys are only punctured at the top, where a foil seal is present, and the filter hangs above the needle that would normally puncture the bottom of a K-cup.  The claim is less waste is produced with this system.

Regardless of which coffee brewing mechanism I use all of the wet grounds go right into the compost bin.  It’s pretty easy to separate the filter from the ring—just a quick wrist flip with a paring knife produces ready to compost grounds:

Camerons Composted

All that is left is the foil seal and rigid plastic ring.  The coffee was okay and the system seemed to work so I see no reason why Cameron’s Coffee alternative K-cups cannot be the regular reserve in my coffee cache.

My home solution for a coffee fix is the deceptively simple Aeropress which produces some of the best coffee for the least work.

Walt Disney World’s Eco-Hypocrisy

No one is going to claim that Walt Disney World is an eco-friendly destination.  Ever.  It’s built on what is essentially swamp land in the middle of the sprawl of Orlando, which has to be one of the most unsustainable developments in the history of mankind.

Some of the hypocrisy just gets to me.  Particularly at Animal Kingdom.  All throughout the park you are preached to about certain elements of eco-centricity.  There are no straws at Animal Kingdom because those are a common item that ends up polluting the animal enclosures at zoos all over the world.  I am down with that, but then explain to me why each tray of food at the quick service outlets had a small plastic card begging people not to litter?  Why not just print the message on the trays rather than include a disposable plastic card?  I cannot explain this conundrum.

However, you are given a paper straw with dinner at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  So, not all straws are bad I guess.

Then there are balloons.  A common souvenir is a balloon that encases another balloon shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head.  Cool right?  Except at Animal Kingdom you cannot get balloons because they might float away and end up in an enclosure.  Okay, but a balloon released at any of the other parks—Magic Kingdom is the farthest park away at less than 5 miles—could easily end up in Animal Kingdom.  Why not ban the balloons at all parks?  Oh wait, dollars…

There are dozens of examples of eco-hypocrisy that I witnessed in my five day trip to the resort.  I do not want to sound like a grump, but wrapping yourself in the flag of self-righteousness when everything else runs counter to that image is just wrong.

At least the toilet paper has 25% post-consumer recycled content:

Magic Kingdom Toilet Paper

You can understand my fascination with toilet paper considering that I started this blog talking about toilet paper so long ago.

One place where the resort does a better job than most other parts of the country is in terms of mass transit.  In the middle of Florida, which seems to hate mass transit because it just smells like some kind of socialist conspiracy, there is plenty of mass transit on the resort grounds.  You can spend your entire trip from airport and back in the embrace of Disney operated mass transit.

Even more impressive than its ubiquity is the organization of the mass transit.  There are no disorganized bus stops with people trying to figure out what queue to stand in.  Nope.  Each destination has clearly marked stops and where the frequency merits there are actual employees assigned to assist people in finding their way.  Even at the busiest of times the wait is rarely twenty minutes.  Granted, you are paying a premium to stay on-resort but getting to where you are going without renting a car is pretty sweet.

Now, about that monorail…

Friday Linkage 9/27/2013

So, it looks like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that the preponderance of global warming is caused by humans.  Boom, outta’ here!  While this may be hailed as a revelation in some quarters, it will be treated with disdain by a large chunk of the political establishment in the U.S. that treats any news about climate change by sticking their fingers in their ears and singing Christian rock.  Yes, I am looking at you Steve King.

Nonetheless, I am hopeful that the conversation can move beyond the whole “the science is not settled” debate.  Not likely, but I am hopeful.

On to the links…
Cherokee Bear Park May Be Sued By Tribal Elders For Violating Endangered Species Act–The fact that this place exists is a damn shame.  A similar park was shut down recently and the bears were relocated to a sanctuary.  PETA has been trying for years to get these animals released from hellish conditions.

In 2013, Worldwide Solar Power Installations Will Overtake Wind For The First Time–Part of it was a function of regulations and taxation, but solar is really coming on as a competitive source of energy.  Not just renewable energy, but energy overall.

Energy Needs Water and Water Needs Energy–The two are inexorably tied.  Without water there cannot be energy production and vice versa.  It’s one of the angles about hydraulic fracturing that often goes unreported.

Will Offshore Wind Finally Take Off on the East Coast–It’s a trend in Europe, but the U.S. has yet to utilize offshore wind resources.  Will that end with several offshore wind farms in the planning stages on the eastern seaboard?

India Plans To Build The Largest Solar Plant In The World–When solar power reaches the “India price” it should take off, so say the experts.  Guess what?  It’s already passed that boundary.  Get ready for liftoff.

How Algae Could Create Better, More Efficient Gasoline Than Corn–Algae is the next great promising biofuel.  Unlike first generation biofuels it does not compete as a food source and it can utilize marginal land.  However, with biofuels the promise always seems to be illusory.

Supermarkets Should Sell More Ugly Fruit–Walk into the produce section of your supermarket and it is a veritable cornucopia of good looking fruits or vegetables.  Now think back to the produce that comes out of your garden.  How much of the homegrown produce would conform to the beauty standards imposed by retail?  Not much I imagine.

The Solution to America’s Food Waste Problem?  Feed People–It seems so simple, but the systems need to be in place to take advantage of the tremendous waste that exists in the system.  The fact that we waste so much food while so many people go hungry.

Does Corporate Farming Exist?  Just Barely–Mother Jones magazine has an interesting look at the ownership structure of some sectors of the agriculture economy.  The good news is that corporate ownership is not yet monolithic.

Into the Wildfire–In a world where climate change is a reality, knowledge about wildfires will be increasingly important because it is likely that we will see more frequent and intense wildland fires.  Ugh.

Patagonia’s Radical Transparency Keeps Getting Traction–It’s great to see that a company is so committed to this level of transparency, but it is sad to think about how small of a player such a company is in the grand scheme of things.  Keep on keepin’ on Patagonia.