Thursday, February 14, 2008

Week 6 Pictures (a bit late posting but accurate)

The basement in all it's glory. I had to use a different camera but i think I got it all. Still no smell and although things are getting cramped, I'm surviving.

A few more bottles this week but with the milk and juice jugs gone, this will not grow nearly as faast as it did the first few weeks.

The bag o boxes and the bag o paper. As you can see I started another paper bag, not because the other was full but because i didn't want to split it.

The misc recycle box. Truly my least favorite. I'm still trying to figure out a better way to keep this stuff but since it's all odd shaped I don't know how to do it better. I fear it's taking more space than it needs and space is at a premium right now.

The worms got a new floor this week as the other was getting full. I probably could have gotten more in there but I figured i had it so why not. In a week or two I'll be harvesting the castings from the bottom bin.

The bag o bags. Not much to say on this one. Plastic Plastic Plastic.

And finally, the "garbage". I'm going to weight this this coming week but taking into account the fact that the average american generates 4.5 lbs of trash a day, I'm pretty sure I'm well under that.


Day 45 - Thursday 2/14/08

Today's Haul:

  • 1 plastic laundry detergent bottle HDPE 2 - recycle
  • 1 cardboard pasta box - recycle
  • 1 plastic tofu container HDPE 2 - recycle
  • 1 local neighborhood paper - worms/recycle
  • 1 cardboard couscous box - recycle
  • 2 receipts - worms
  • 1 piece used dental floss (I know I haven't been flossing) - garbage
  • 1 piece chewed gum in wrapper - garbage


A Single Can

This is something i cam across in a class on sustainable living a while back that i don't think I've posted. It's a description of the amount of waste and resources the goes into the making of a can of cola. I like it because it takes an everyday (for many people) item and breaks it down to show you how much of an impact your purchase of that item can make. Interesting reading. I haven't been able to drink out of an aluminum can since.


A striking case study of the complexity of industrial metabolism is provided by James Womack and Daniel Jones in their book Lean Thinking, where they trace the origins and pathways of a can of English cola. The can itself is more costly and complicated to manufacture than the beverage. Bauxite is mined in Australia and trucked to a chemical reduction mill where a half-hour process purifies each ton of bauxite into a half ton of aluminum oxide. When enough of that is stockpiled, it is loaded on a giant ore carrier and sent to Sweden or Norway, where hydroelectric dams provide cheap electricity. After a monthlong journey across two oceans, it usually sits at the smelter for as long as two months.

The smelter takes two hours to turn each half ton of aluminum oxide into a quarter ton of aluminum metal, in ingots ten meters long. These are cured for two weeks before being shipped to roller mills in Sweden or Germany. There each ingot is heated to nearly nine hundred degrees Fahrenheit and rolled down to a thickness of an eighth of an inch. The resulting sheets are wrapped in ten-ton coils and transported to a warehouse, and then to a cold rolling mill in the same or another country, where they are rolled tenfold thinner, ready for fabrication. The aluminum is then sent to England, where sheets are punched and formed into cans, which are then washed, dried, painted with a base coat, and then painted again with specific product information. The cans are next lacquered, flanged (they are still topless), sprayed inside with a protective coating to prevent the cola from corroding the can, and inspected.

The cans are palletized, forklifted, and warehoused until needed. They are then shipped to the bottler, where they are washed and cleaned once more, then filled with water mixed with flavored syrup, phosphorus, caffeine, and carbon dioxide gas. The sugar is harvested from beet fields in France and undergoes trucking, milling, refining, and shipping. The phosphorus comes from Idaho, where it is excavated from deep open-pit mines—a process that also unearths cadmium and radioactive thorium. Round-the-clock, the mining company uses the same amount of electricity as a city of 100,000 people in order to reduce the phosphate to food-grade quality. The caffeine is shipped from a chemical manufacturer to the syrup manufacturer in England.

The filled cans are sealed with an aluminum "pop-top" lid at the rate of fifteen hundred cans per minute, then inserted into cardboard cartons printed with matching color and promotional schemes. The cartons are made of forest pulp that may have originated anywhere from Sweden or Siberia to the old-growth, virgin forests of British Columbia that are the home of grizzly, wolverines, otters, and eagles. Palletized again, the cans are shipped to a regional distribution warehouse, and shortly thereafter to a supermarket where a typical can is purchased within three days. The consumer buys twelve ounces of the phosphate-tinged, caffeine-impregnated, caramel-flavored sugar water. Drinking the cola takes a few minutes; throwing the can away takes a second. In England, consumers discard 84 percent of all cans, which means that the overall rate of aluminum waste, after counting production losses, is 88 percent. The United States still gets three-fifths of its aluminum from virgin ore, at twenty times the energy intensity of recycled aluminum, and throws away enough aluminum to replace its entire commercial aircraft fleet every three months.


VD (no not that one)

I was just listening to the radio in the shower and heard a statistic that today, Valentines Day, $17 billion will be spent on flowers, cards, chocolates and little tiny stuffed bears. The piece went on to talk about the chocolate market, which gets cocoa beans from places in Africa like the Ivory Coast, where the majority of the workers are underaged minors. Kind of amazing to think that a greeting card company has somehow convinced us that on a certain day of the year, it is imperative that we buy gifts made by children in order to convince our significant others that we care about them. Does anyone else think this is nuts? $17 Billion? Imagine if that money went into schools, or solar research, or feeding the poor (preferably not minor produced chocolate though). I know that's naive because it doesn't really work that way, but talk about waste.

Now to the cards and gifts and flowers.  Here in the US, most of the country is not in flower growing season, so most of the flowers purchased have probably come from fairly far away requiring a tremendous amount of energy to transport them to us. They probably come in a plastic and paper wrapper which in most cases will be thrown away. Most of the cards that are bought are going to be looked at once and thrown away, if not recycled, but most won't be. The store that sold the card most likely gave it to the buyer in a small plastic bag that most people will probably throw out when they get home. And I'm not even going to get started on the waste from those chocolate boxes.

I don't mean to be all bah humbug on romance by the way, I'm all for it (as much as someone who keeps his trash in the basement can be anyway). I'm just bummed out that the concept has been hijacked and turned into something involving consumption. 

So what''s my suggestion? If you want to celebrate today, why not do something that doesn't involve simple consumption - make dinner, draw a picture, sing a song, show up at work and serenade someone, call out of the blue and simply tell them that you were thinking of them and couldn't wait until the end of the day to let them know, the list is endless. Just use your imagination and don't let the corporations tell you how you have to show your emotions. And better than all of these, do nothing today, but do something else 4 other times of the year and let your partner know that these "surprises" are in place of Vday because you don't need someone else to remind you when to act romantic.

Off to make a lovely bouquet of garbage for the missus.


P.S.  And don't shoot the messenger, I was just passing along what I heard


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

8.5 lbs of paper?

Yeah, that one kind of shocked me too. I've been dealing with my ear so much (which is finally on the mend and thank you for all your kind words) that I put a box near my desk and have been adding to it. I figured I'd itemize down the line, but have realized that I just don't have the time. 8.5 lbs was a pretty hefty shock, but then again, that includes 2.5 weeks of paper including 4 local neighborhood papers and all my non-essential mail. Also, it includes primary time which was a huge amount. Check out the picture above. We vote on propositions here in Ca (a concept i still don't agree with) and these are the 27 pieces of literature, although I think there were more, that i received trying to convince me which way to vote. Easily over a pound there and that's what i got, my wife got just as many. It's truly amazing and had little effect on how I voted as I generally do my own research and vote accordingly. A huge waste of resources, energy, and time. But I guess that can be said for politics on some level as well, so if the shoe fits....



Smelly Tuna Cans

Anyone have any thoughts on how to make these things NOT smell anymore? I soaked them in vinegar and water last night and it helped, but not enough. Thoughts?



Day 44 - Wednesday 2/13/08

Today's Haul:

  • 1 batch of human hair (haircut) - out back for the birdies
  • 1 R30 flood lamp - e waste pile
  • 1 plastic cover from new Compact Flo bulb - recycle (I keep the insert for my records in case the bulb burns out early)
  • 1 plastic pasta bag - recycle
  • 1 plastic medicine bottle HDPE 2 - recycle
  • 1 little desicant bag from inside bottle - ewaste/hazardous
  • 8.5 lbs of paper including newspaper, receipts, scrap, and mail - recycle/worms


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Compact

I had heard of this before, but didn't know much about it until last week. The Compact is a group of citizens that originated in San Fran about a year and a half ago, who pledged to buy nothing new for a year except food and items related to personal hygiene and safety - brake fluid, underwear (is that safety or hygiene?), toilet paper, etc.

I think this is a really fantastic idea and it seems to have caught on quite a bit. I'm now a member of their yahoo group and the amount of posts they generate are simply staggering. These people mean business. And the great thing is that since they are all in it together, they share ideas on how to get around purchasing problems.

Now for those of you who are thinking uggh, a year without buying anything, think again. They are just not buying anything new. I personally check craigslist for just about everything before I buy something new, simply to avoid all of the packaging and to take myself out of the production cycle. So they're not living frugal lives necessarily, just thinking more about their purchases and considering what's important.

Here's a great list i saw posted by one of the groups members. It was actually printed ona little credit card holder and was intended to make you think before pulling it out. This is waht was printed on the holder:

I want my money to support the environment.

* Is this purchase something I need?
* Do I already own something that will serve the same purpose?
* Can I borrow one instead of buying new?
* Can I make something that will serve the same purpose?
* Can I buy a used one?
* Would someone be willing to split the cost and share this with me?
* Can I buy or commission one made locally?
* Can I buy one that was made with environmentally responsible
* Can I buy one that serves more than one purpose?
* Can I get something human powered instead of gas or electric?
* Can I compost or recycle it when I'm done with it?
* Have I considered the impact on the environment of the full
lifecycle of it - did the manufacture or disposal of it damage
the environment?

Great questions and a really good list to go through before making a purchase.



The Newspaper

I've read before that it takes 500,000 trees to make the Sunday editions of the nations newspapers every week. It's a pretty shocking number but I've seen it in more than one place. When you take that into your mind, and add to it the fact that only 1/10th of all recyclables are recycled and that the number one thing that ends up in the average landfill is paper, you can see where we've got a big problem.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that people stop being informed because afterall, education is key to changing the problems at hand. Having said that, there are other options.

The first that comes to mind is of course the internet. I had a huge problem with this for a while but I finally seem to have worked it out to where I can read longer articles on my computer and that's where I get a lot of my information. The plus side of this is of course that I can look at a number of different publications and get a better view of what's really going on. The down side, is that unlike reading a newspaper, where you would stumble across things you might not otherwise read, on the internet you jump to what you want, so I fear I do miss out in this way.

The internet of course, is not the answer, or even an option, for everybody though. So, if you want to read the paper, perhaps you can get together with some neighbors and get a subscription that you can share. I can see possible problems with this, but it seems like if everyone is respectful, it could work out well. In an apartment building it might work out even easier as neighbors could take turns getting the paper first with limited hassle. Either way, carefully choosing your partners in this undertaking seems key.

If you have the time, the library is always a possibility as well, but again I realize this isn't a possibility for everyone due to time.

And then there's always AM radio which is surprisingly good for those who haven't checked it out recently, streaming programs on the web, and of course TV (my least favorite, but it's an option nonetheless).

Bottom line is that printed papers use a tremendous amount of trees, not to mention ink and water, and the energy to transport them to your house, or the local news vendor. If you can read on the internet or get your news from some other form of electronic transmission, go for it, you'll save money and resources, and if you can't, try and see how you can limit your impact by making a single copy go farther.



Traveling, Ear Problems, and Pics

I'm finally almost caught up. this ear thing has been driving me nuts and while it's still pretty bad I realized i just had to power through to get some things done. I didn't post pics because I am experiencing some computer gremlins and couldn't right now. I've got them and hopefully they'll be up by tomorrow.

So last week I had to drive up north to Oakland to do a day of work on a commercial. Normally I'd fly, but due to my ear problems I couldn't. While it takes a significant amount of time longer to drive, at least it''s cleaner than flying and since my car runs on Waste Vegetable Oil (garbage ironically enough) it's a fair amount cleaner.

I was fairly happy that this time I remembered to bring my soap and shampoo so I didn't have to touch the stuff they have there. That said, it's interesting to me how hard it is to pre-emptively stop people from wasting on your behalf, even though they are only trying to be of service.

Case in point, the hotel that we were staying at. I forget the name of it, but it was sort of like a Marriott Suites kind of place, nice, comfortable, attentive staff who will help in any way they can, etc. So after I checked in I went downstairs to get directions to two places nearby. I asked if she knew where the first place was and the nice woman behind the counter said "Oh sure" and began to type on her computer. I asked her if she could tell me the directions off the computer and gestured (with pen in hand) that I could write it down. As I asked this, she reached under the counter and said "oh no, this is much better" and handed me a fresh piece of computer paper, printed with the directions.

Now don't get me wrong, I know she's just trying to do the best job she can, so i don't blame her, but it just shows (and what happened next) how ingrained waste is in our society - or at least how trained we all are to not think about it.

I thanked her for the directions and asked if she could read off the other directions to me and I would write it down, explaining that i was trying to minimize my waste and didn't want to add to the paper stream. So she reached down under the desk, pulled out the next printed sheet, and read me those directions. I told her I might as well just keep them anyway, and thanked her. Amazing.

Later in the evening I asked if the morning paper was delivered to each door and they said it was, so i asked to not have my paper delivered. It became a bit of a thing (and they weren't that busy so everyone got into it a bit) as they tried to figure out how to do it. When I realized that this was causing more harm than good, although they did seem interested, I thanked them and headed up to my room. When I got there, I took one of the maps from earlier, wrote "No paper Please, Have a Nice Day" on it and left it on the floor in front of my door. Sure enough, the next morning, mine was the only door without a paper.

I guess sometimes the easiest solutions can be the best, but it sure can be an uphill course can't it.



Day 43 - Tuesday 2/12/08

Today's Haul:

  • 1 cardboard blintz box - recycle
  • 3 pieces of gum w/wrappers - garbage
  • 2 used q tips - worms
  • 1 plastic tab from milk bottle - recycle
  • 1 plastic cookie bag - recycle
  • 2 tuna cans - recycling


Day 42 - Monday 2/11/08

Today's Haul:

  • 1 plastic bag frozen corn - recycle
  • 1 paper bag and paper wrapper from takeout - worms
  • 1 plastic tofu tub - recycle
  • 1 cardboard laundry detergent box - recycle
  • 6 mini dv tape plastic wraps - recycle (it's in japanese but amazingly has the recycling symbol)
  • 2 dead 9 volt batteries - e waste pile
  • 1 cardboard battery holder with plastic cover - recycle (I found out these are ok)
  • 1 piece tape - garbage


Day 41 - Sunday 2-10-07

Today's Haul:

  • 2 tinfoil candy wrappers - garbage
  • 1 plastic bag from toilet paper pack - recycle
  • 1 cool plastic take out container with top - repurposed for basement screws etc.
  • 1 plastic drinking straw - recycle
  • 1 reeses peanut butter cup wrapper - garbage
  • 4 pieces of gum and 4 wrappers - garbage
  • 2 used q tips - worms
  • 6 tissues - worms


Day 40 - Saturday 2-9-08

Today's Haul:

  • 2 lollipop sticks with plastic wrappers - garbage
  • 1 glass wine bottle - recycle
  • 1 cork from wine bottle - saved for re-use
  • 1 glass Patron bottle - recycle
  • 1 bag awesome vegan Trader Joes cookies - garbage
  • 1 bag potato chips - garbage


Day 39 - Friday 2/8/08

Today's Haul:

  • 1 cardboard box crackers plus plastic bag - recycle
  • 1 cliff bar wrapper - garbage
  • 1 paper tablecloth cover - worms
  • 4 napkins - worms
  • 1 plastic plate (#6) - recycle
  • 2 "food bar" wrappers - garbage
  • 1 hotel room key holder - worms
  • 1 piece tinfoil - garbage
  • 1 plastic muffin wrapper - garbage
  • 1 piece scrap paper - worms
  • 4 sugar packets - worms


Day 38 - Thursday 2/7/08

Today's Haul:

  • 1 cereal box - recycle
  • 1 cereal box plastic bag - recycle
  • 1 plastic soda bottle PETE 1 - recycle
  • 1 plastic bag chips - garbage
  • 1 plastic bagel spread holder PP 5 - recycle
  • 1 cardboard toilet paper roll - worms
  • 2 wooden shishkabob skewers - worms (soaked and cut up)
  • 1 plastic drinking straw - recycle
  • 4 misc pieces scrap paper - worms
  • 2 used q-tips - worms
  • 4 pieces chewed gum in wrappers - garbage