Posts Tagged ‘green’

The impact of our choices

June 9, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s great that everyone is up in arms about the massive oil hemorrhage taking place in the Gulf of Mexico, and clearly, I agree that BP, and the rest of their industry needs to be held accountable for the ridiculous lack-of-action they took that led up to this.

However, this is just something that we’re talking about because it’s news-worthy. In comparison, I can’t really say this is the worst thing we Americans have done to the ocean this decade even.

I know that sounds radical, and probably insensitive, to say.  I also know that until a few months ago, I was also largely ignornant to the harm we are causing our oceans.

For one, take a look at the Great Pacific Garbage Float.  Estimated to be twice the size of the US, and upward of 100 feet deep, a near island made of the solid bits of floating plastic trash, surrounded by miles of “plasic soup”, smaller pieces of plastic that are photodegrading.

We all know that plastic doesn’t biodegrade, but it DOES photodegrade.  Exposure to the water & sun makes the plastic split up into smaller & smaller pieces of plastic.  Considering that a large amount of the plastic soup started out at industrial grade plastic pellets, you can imagine it doesn’t take long for this stuff to break down to the point that it looks like a goldfish pellet.

As the plastic flotsam photodegrades into smaller and smaller pieces, it concentrates in the upper water column. As it disintegrates, the plastic ultimately becomes small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms which reside near the ocean’s surface.

Once the plastic is broken down small enough, the marine life mistakes it for food (remember, a lot of animals get by eating plankton), and then the plastic, along with the chemicals it bears, are passed up the food chain.

From Discover magazine:
Fish and seabirds mistake plastic for food. Plastic debris releases chemical additives and plasticizers into the ocean. Plastic also adsorbs hydrophobic pollutants like PCBs and pesticides like DDT. These pollutants bioaccumulate in the tissues of marine organisms, biomagnify up the food chain, and find their way into the foods we eat.”

The worst part, or perhaps the most convenient part, is that nobody can say for sure where the plastic comes from.  Current estimates say 80% of the float originated from land, between North America & Asia.

So, while I don’t drive a car, and can remain relatively conscience free about the Texas Tea that the gulf is being turned into, I do certainly use a lot of plastic.  I’m typing to you on a keyboard made of plastic, sitting on a chair with plastic bits, waiting for my plastic-cased phone to charge.

I don’t know that any of what I dispose of is responsibly disposed of or recycled.   Really THAT should be the next step.  Find out what happens after I’m done with something, instead of just believing someone else puts it in the best place possible.

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Great Idea, Let’s Make it Happen

June 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Was just reading on INHABITAT about the proposal put forth by Japanese company Shimizu Corp to turn the moon into a solar power plant.

Lots of people have called this idea crazy, and INHABITAT adds,

If we can’t get robots to fix an oil spill 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, how can we possibly expect them to build a gigantic solar power plant on the moon?

But I say, the plan isn’t ambitious enough.

Yes, folks, you just read that.  I may have just hit a milestone in ridiculousness, but I really don’t think robots on the moon is an ambitious enough plan.

Why just put a belt around it?   Why not try to cover as much of one side as you can?

I have to say, I love the idea of bountiful, cheap electrical power, especially if it can easily be shared to far reaching parts of the globe.

But let’s take it one step farther…

Why not couple this with the Wireless Power invented by MIT a couple years ago, and just beam free power to the world?

THAT is how I’d like the government to spend my tax dollars.

And, I bet THAT would get a lot more people to switch to electrical or solar-power automobiles.

Free power in AZ in the summer would mean at least $100 per month I’d have available, and I’m sure my home is on the small-end of that scale.

(I just checked, and confirmed that I used 7,885 kWh of power over the last 12 months, with 56% of that use coming from June – October. Average energy spending per month: $90.  Energy spending for the average AZ home: waaaay more than that.)

Sure, I get that money paid to the power company is still money going into the economy, and by no means to I think APS is an evil company. (Though the many coal-fired power plants in the East & Southeast are…)

However, if I had that extra money available, I could support more local businesses, such as through the 3/50 Project, or hell, even save the money for a big ticket purchase, like a down payment on a house (sub-prime hell nah).

Benefits of “free power”:

  • Solar & EV cars take over
  • Light Rail could run almost entirely for free   (not that they couldn’t pull this off if they installed solar on the existing line, though….)
  • More money to stimulate the local economy, instead of landing as profits for the electrical utility.
  • Storm-proof power.  Monsoons now longer a worry.
  • Less utilities means less costs for government in terms of facilities maintenance and entitlement payouts, and thus better funding for relevant projects and/or less taxes for us, further leading to more stimulus of the local economy.
  • No power plants endlessly burning coal, adding SO2 to the air, causing respiratory diseases and deaths.

I’m sure there are countless other benefits I just haven’t thought of right now….

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One Solution to the BP #oilspill

June 4, 2010 1 comment

via Wooster Collective, art by Priest:

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Xkcd wins again: #oilspill

June 3, 2010 Leave a comment

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Something we could use in Phoenix

June 3, 2010 Leave a comment

I stumbled across Transportation Alternatives as they were being discussed on a design blog I read, and as I dug in, I thought “this is a pretty good idea, why don’t we have a strong group for this here?”.

Our Mission is to reclaim New York City’s streets from the automobile, and to advocate for bicycling, walking and public transit as the best transportation alternatives.

Transportation Alternatives was founded in 1973 during the explosion of environmental consciousness that also produced the Clean Air and Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency. Since our founding, T.A. has helped win numerous improvements for cyclists and pedestrians and has been the leading voice for reducing car use in the city. T.A.’s roots are in bicycling, and many of our members are everyday cyclists. But winning a cycling-friendly city means changing the overall transportation system, which, even in mass transit-centered New York City, is still dominated by the private automobile.

T.A. seeks to change New York City’s transportation priorities to encourage and increase non-polluting, quiet, city-friendly travel and decrease–not ban–private car use. We seek a rational transportation system based on a “Green Transportation Hierarchy,” which gives preference to modes of travel based on their benefits and costs to society. To achieve our goals, T.A. works in five areas: Bicycling, Walking and Traffic Calming, Car-Free Parks, Safe Streets and Sensible Transportation.

Green Transportation Hierarchy

Of course, lately I’ve heard positive things about more and more people riding their bikes, and I’ve certainly seen an increased number of bike riders, and Light Rail commuters, this year.  Perhaps I’m completely ignorant to a local organization that is already responsible for all of this.

But it never hurts to get the word out.

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Sometimes I just feel like including a crazy picture

May 30, 2010 Leave a comment

“This is one of those times” said Capt Obvious.

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Vacation like a Hobbit?

May 27, 2010 1 comment


“6 days 7 nights in your own personal Bag End”

Tell me that’s not what you think of when you see this:


Architect Matteo Thun has designed this striking eco-friendly hotel to be located on a mountainside in the National Park of Stelvio in the Italian Alps. Composed of a series of underground buildings linked by undulating green roofs, the complex takes advantage of passive design principles and ground-source heat pumps to conserve energy. In addition, the construction of the units, the way the units are situated on the site, and the materials used have all been carefully considered to minimize the complex’ impact upon the environment.

So that all sounds good, but one has to remember what Tolkien said about living in such a place:

In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a Hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
The Hobbit, “An Unexpected Party
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