Archive for the ‘recycling’ Category


T. Boone Pickins makes point, but disappoints

November 3, 2008

Yesterday, I dragged my unwilling kids out to see T. Boone Pickins speak about his energy plan.  I felt like it would be something of a watershed event where they’d look back and say, “wow, that’s when…”  Unfortunately, Boone was not an especially dynamic (or even intelligible) speaker and they did not get much from it.

Here’s what I got from it:

  1. Boone believes our #1 issue is dependence on foreign oil (70% of our oil is imported).
  2. We need to aggressively switch to natural gas as a transportation fuel to replace diesel from imported crude.

That’s it and I’m disappointed.  Boone is correct in both points, but I don’t think that is even close to a complete plan.  Here’s my 10 point energy plan:

  1. Implement an increasing carbon based tax to create incentives to move away from carbon based fuels.  Reducing the total oil used will dramatically impact the import issue.  If natural gas is more efficient, then we’ll use that instead to reduce the carbon tax impact.  Potentially, imported carbon could have additional tariffs.
  2. Require (fund) a standard platform for nuclear plants so that we can have common practices and economies of scale.
  3. Immediately start increasing the efficiency standards for everything (appliances, computers, HVAC, cars) that are sold.  Provide substantial tax incentives for people who replace these items if they also recycle the replaced unit.
  4. Establish a Sustainable Corps to help implement efficiency & green power projects nationwide.
  5. Fund Power Up Our Schools program to make all school districts energy independent in 5 years.
  6. Impose a disposal surcharge on items that cannot be broken down into recyclable components.
  7. Stop all subsidies for production of corn ethanol.
  8. Take away tax breaks for energy companies – they get to keep the money if they were re-investing it into R&D.  If they won’t fund research then the government gets to use the windfall.
  9. Grant right of way for high-speed passenger trains along existing interstate routes.
  10. 55 mile per hour national speed limit and add pay for access inner-city driving – this alone would eliminate the amount of crude that we import from Saudi Arabia.

These 10 items would make an immediate and signficant different.  They leverage people making economic choices and do not restrict personal freedoms.


Berry Hill egregious taco packaging saga continued (with photos)

August 20, 2008

So I’m a green freak, but Berry Hill’s (360 & Westlake Dr in Austin) breakfast taco packaging is over the top by any standards. They make McDonald’s DLT burger box look like a Prius next to this Hummer of a to-go order. One would hope that tacos protected by tin foil and Styrofoam and accompanied by a whole utensil set and chips would be a culinary masterpiece.  Sorry, they’re not even that good. If you want great breakfast tacos then go to Texas Honey Ham on Bee Cave. Those tacos are AWESOME and appropriately packaged.

That is a lot of packaging for 5 tacos!

That is a lot of packaging for 6 tacos!

Looks like a lot of food, but it is?

Looks like a lot of food, but is it? No.

The picture below is not a packaging rant because I’m not sure which way makes sense. Ideally, the plastic box would be reusable. We could buy the appropriately packaged cheese and restore it in the convenient box. The strange part is that the price is identical. I would expect that the more durable package costs something extra.  This confirms that retail pricing is not logical – people buy on impression and instinct.

More questionable packaging?  Same amount of cheese, but lots more plastic.

More questionable packaging? Same amount of cheese, but lots more plastic.


Kindle, kinda kool and saves paper & shipping

August 9, 2008

My awesome, wonderful, thoughtful, considerate, blog reading mother-in-law bought me a Kindle this summer.  She also bought Laura a Sony eBook Reader so I’ll do a comparison post later.  The short version – I recommend getting a Kindle ($360 from Amazon) if you like to read.

Anyway, I’ve been using the reader and starting to enjoy the benefits and discount the apparent disadvantages.  eBooks are generally 50% less (65% if you factor in shipping) and there is materials or delivery waste.  So theoretically, they should have a smaller environmental impact.  I’m not sure that a electronic gadget with a 3 year life expectancy is really better than a book with a 100 year shelf life.  Especially if it’s hard to loan/borrow your eBooks.  Our home selves are bursting with great (and not-so-great) reads.

Here are some of the features that I really like:

  1. it’s small compared to most books (and even better since it can be multiple books)
  2. it’s online so you can buy new books, browse the Internet, google, etc
  3. it’s very readable (display rocks)
  4. you can get book samples and “browse” books before you buy them.  If you like the sample, just click buy on the last page and keep reading.  It’s that fast.
  5. you can find books on Amazon and 1-click buy/download them to be reading in second (yes, seconds)
  6. Things I should like, but have not tried: it can play music, show photos, plus subscribe to newspapers, magazines, and blogs (this is a pay thing).
Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle

Update 8/13: read the comments to hear about FeedBooks! They rock.


Repairs more costly than replacement?!

July 23, 2008

We don’t make things that last and we don’t make things easy to fix.  I got my green geek on and decided to fix, not replace, my broken shovel.  Getting a metal replacement handle was my only option, but it cost nearly as much ($15) a whole new plastic handle shovel ($20).  Replacing it took about 10 minutes.

The other shovel I bought only came with a plastic handle.

New shovel handle, not a new shovel

New shovel handle, not a new shovel


Talking Trash on the Beach

July 19, 2008

Yes, I’m a sustainability nut… Instead of frolicking the the surf, I was taking pictures of the beach trash cans at Fort Walton Beach, Fla,  I was appalled, appalled I tell you, about amount of recyclables in the trash.  While it’s pathetic much litter remains on the sand, I’m even sadder that the City of Fort Walton Beach (FWB) puts out trash cans in pairs, yet does not offering beach side recycling.

The photo shows the obvious – typical beach waste is at least 80% recyclable!

This is NOT trash!
This is NOT trash!

This leads to interconnected two questions:

  1. Does it make sense for FWB to provide beach recycling as a service?
  2. Would people use it if they offered it?

Unfortunately, it’s not a viable service unless people will use it.  I wonder if recyclers could handle the 20% waste in the otherwise Al & PET rich trash.

From the photo below, Austin clearly has both the motivation and participation to provide recycling.  What will it take to push this municipal attitude to the mainstream?

Austin does it right
Austin does it right

(lil) Green Karma from replacing Roomba Batteries

June 23, 2008

Our well loved and perfectly functional Roomba has been suffering from battery age.  Unfortunately, iRobot is charging about 50% of the replacement price ($69 vs $150) just for a new battery (see buying tip below).  I was choking about the cost and found a nice Roomba hack site suggesting that the batteries were just C-cell NiMh and could be easily replaced.

Even better, I found a vendor with a $30 DIY battery replacement kit that included the required triangle head screw driver.  Woo Hoo!  Instructions require a little instructional soldering for my 10 year old.  Extra bonus!

I just wish our products were built to be more sustainable.  Better link to Story of Stuff again.

Roomba Batteries

Note: our usage of the Roomba requires NONE of the fancy features they they up-up-upsell to unsuspecting buyers.  For our usage, scheduling is done with the (cleverly marked) start button, virtual walls are replaced by (gasp) doors, and we (groan) carry the handy robot back for recharging.  I highly recommend buying a very base model and skipping all the extras.


Green Karma w/ Freecycle

June 23, 2008

Laura was busy today getting lots of Green Karma.   She’s reclaiming our house from clutter, or, in Laura speak, improving our ch’i.   We’re also on a deadline because carpet cleaners are arriving soon to complete the removal of the aromatic reminders of the spray stray cat we housed for 2 weeks.

De-cluttering for us involves aggressive freecycling.  Freecycle is this awesome community that we’ve been using for a couple of years.  It’s sort of like Craig’s List, but goods are free.  The concept to recycle your junk to someone who can use it, gratis.  We’ve freecycled lots of things including a busted mosquito breeding hot tub, crawl space shutters, a car eating futon, and (today) lots of out-grown toys.Freecycle in action

I highly recommend Freecycle.  It’s a great way to keep your junk out of the junk yard.  Most of the items Laura posts there are picked up from our house in just hours.