Thursday, May 31, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Anyway, I'll blog more details about my APS adventure in the near future. In the meantime, here's a video that my friend Dave edited from the Environmental Education Event, which we hosted at the Farmer's Market:
Enjoy! :0) M
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Monday, May 21, 2007
Curious, Hugo entered the abandoned store:
"Inside there were remnants of what they once sold, awkwardly distributed as if the store had been abandoned in a rush and a tornado had passed over. Half the roof was missing, so it was quite exposed to the elements. Hence my surprise to find an issue of American Home in perfect condition dating from May 1959!"
Inside American Home, Hugo saw an ad for a paper bag clip, so that folks could keep their grocery bags nicely organized in their kitchen cabinets:
Wow, so there was a time before plastic bags!!!
Hugo sent me a couple more photos of ads in the magazine:
"Keep in mind this is 1959. A time when plastic bags had not made a significant appearance. A time when the milk carton was just being introduced. A time when cars were huge. A time when cellphones were not even in science fiction but there were phonebooths on the road. A time when people were actually concerned with water purification, long before the scares of the environmental movement of the late 60's. A time when people, woman in particular, were actually concerned about their waistlines. Like big cars, it seems big people had always been a part of the American way of life. So I hope you find these ads as illuminating and entertaining as I did."To see more photos from Hugo's recent adventure, click here.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Quick Update: After conducting an online investigation, fellow blogger Kathy Schrenk discovered the date of Churchill's untimely death; he died on May 26, 2005. To read more about this story (and the death of another polar bear at the St. Louis Zoo), click here.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
To paraphrase Johnson, his hope is that the images will elicit a "different effect" than relying on statistics alone. And as many folks would agree, statistics often feel "abstract and anesthetizing," making it difficult to comprehend and produce meaning out of those raw numbers.
Here's Johnson's visualization of 60,000 plastic bags, the number of bags used in the US every 5 seconds:
Up close & personal:
Wowza! This also puts our 72,571 bags gathered at BagFest in a different light.
To see more examples (i.e., cell phones) of Chris Johnson's work, click here. And to read an interview with this artist for Orion magazine, click here.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Now that it's Spring, I figured I'd bike to work on a regular basis--that is, until it gets too cold for me. (You have to remember I'm from Georgia; my idea of the "cold" differs from most folks around here!)
So, why bother biking?
Well, the reasons why I should bike seem rather transparent: I'm getting in shape while on my way to work, I get to say hello to passerbys, and I save money on gas and parking.
And there's another reason (this one is more psychological): After not driving my VW Jetta for a couple of weeks, I really appreciate driving it again! Cognitive psychologists call this effect "dishabituation," which basically means that taking a break from a routine behavior (i.e., driving) elicits the same response (i.e., joy) I experienced the first time I drove my car. Sweet!
Friday, May 11, 2007
That's right, I've officially joined the Compost Revolution. Woo Hoo! I'm very excited about this new adventure. So far, so good. Of course, the jury's still out on whether I can actually produce soil from my food scraps.
Hey, I'm willing to give this a try. Wish me luck! :0)
(To see more goofy pictures, click the flickr photo.)
Thursday, May 10, 2007
BP oil currently dumps 21.4 million gallons of treated wastewater each day.
Now BP wants to add 50% more ammonia and 35% more sludge (i.e., solid waste) into their wastewater each day.
Is there anything we can do about this proposal? There's not much time, but we can act now. (Actually, we have until Friday to voice our concern.) IDEM will consider all written comments before making a final decision about BP's draft wastewater permit. You can send your comment by mailing, e-mailing or faxing them to:
Indiana Department of Environmental Management
Office of Water Quality
MC 65-42SR IGCN-1255
100 N. Senate Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2251
Fax: (317) 232-8637
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
I use grocery bags for trash, thus avoiding the purchase of larger plastic bags. But if I use reusable bags, I'll have to buy larger plastic bags for my trash. Which is worse?
Brilliant question. Of course, the answer is not immediately obvious. It also reminds me of a chapter in the Cradle to Cradle book entitled, "Why being less bad is no good."
The problem with using plastic bags is that they're made with polyethelyne (i.e., crude oil and natural gas), which are non-renewable resources. Put in a different way, it takes just 14 plastic bags to fuel a car for 1 mile. So when plastic bags are used for trash, we're also throwing away valuable resources into landfills. Worse yet, as these bags photodegrade for the next 1000 years, they're releasing toxins and other hazardous materials into the environment.
The good news is that we can sidestep this bag dilemma by purchasing biodegradable trash bags, which are made from cornstarch and other renewable resouces. This is advantageous because it reduces our dependency on natural gas and crude oil. The single downside is that biodegradable bags will not biodegrade in the absence of oxygen; this is an issue because landfill covers reduce oxygen levels dramatically.
But let's curtail this downward spiral: If we used biodegradable bags, we can compost our food scraps and those bags. And in conjunction with the 3R's (reduce, reuse, and recycle), we could significantly reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills. Taken together, we can feel good knowing we're preserving earth's non-renewable resources by using biodegradable trash bags.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Apparently, this question elicits a lot of guilt among shoppers. Some folks think paper is better than plastic, and vice versa. According to Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the decision to use paper or plastic bags depends on where you live. If you live near a coastline, use paper. If you live in the Midwest, use plastic, he advised.
Is this sound advice? Unfortunately, the story did not provide any compelling evidence to support this claim. Given that a vast quantity of recyclables are shipped to far-away places for processing, does it really matter where I live?
In fairness, this report did make a good point: When it comes to selecting the right bag, the decision isn't always easy. I agree because shoppers aren't presented with a third option: reusable bags.
We could all sidestep this bag dilemma by bringing our own bags (or purchasing cloth bags at the checkout). That way, we wouldn't have to weigh the pros and cons of this "paper vs. plastic" decision, nor would we feel guilty about our bag selection. And maybe, just maybe, we could enjoy the rest of the day, perhaps even focusing on other issues that merit greater attention.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Elsewhere on this planet, Roman Jaster, a student at the California Institute of the Arts, has taken initiative to create reusable bags in order to encourage folks to stop using paper or plastic grocery bags.
He also has an online pledge for people to sign. Of course, yours truly has signed the pledge. And you can, too!
I must say, these students inspire me. Adults seem rather cynical when it comes to the environment. You know what's funny? It's as though there's been a shift in who's setting the better example. I think students are on the right track when it comes to taking initiative on making the world a better place.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
As you can imagine, it was fun sharing practical information on what we can do to reduce waste and improve the environment. Plus, the market was buzzing with entertainment: kids, games, ponies, and a brass band helped us celebrate this event.
And GEM the Electric Car was in attendance! Some of you may already know that Gabrielle and Mike Keen own South Bend's first electric car. Anyway, feel free to peruse the pictures taken from this event by clicking on this flickr photo.
Friday, May 04, 2007
The first item on the agenda was called "Landfills and the Law." Rick informed us that technically speaking, compostable items can't be thrown into landfills. Well, that's news to me!
I also learned there's a delicate chemical balance that must occur for optimal decomposition. To achieve a stink-free and happy compost, carbon and nitrogen levels must be in harmony. (It's a 30:1 carbon-nitrogen ratio.)
I like how Rick characterized this ratio: Think browns for carbon, and greens for nitrogen**.
He gave us some examples, too:
- Greens: food wastes, grass clippings, egg shells, coffee grounds, chicken/horse/cow poo
- Browns: leaves, straw, bark, paper (newspaper, too), fruit wastes
And here are a couple of no-no's:
- No dog or cat poo*, meat or oils
This carbon-nitrogen balance is important because we need as many critters as possible to eat the compost pile. And those critters like to eat carbon (for energy) and nitrogen (for protein)!
Ok, I think I'm mentally prepared for this new lifestyle change. A friend of mine is giving me his old composting bin tomorrow, so that's when I'll officially join the compost revolution! :0)
*In case you're wondering why horse poo is ok, but dog poo is not, Rick informed us that dogs & cats lack a pathogen system, which is a compost problem because the temperature of the pile (90-140F) isn't hot enough to kill those pathogens. (Pathogens are killed at 160F.)
**This post was edited on 5-14-07 for accuracy. (Thanks P~)
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
To recap, the plastic-bag ban revoked the usage of plastic bags made from polyethelyne (i.e., crude oil and natural gas). That's good news because it lowers our dependency on non-renewable resources. Plus, shoppers in California have another bagging option (i.e., biodegradable bags).
So, what's the bad news?
Everyone's confused about which plastic bag is which. And for good reason: Those biodegradable bags look just like the old plastic bags.
This emerging confusion is problematic because mixing these "biobags" with ordinary plastic bags may cause havoc for the recycling industry. (There's another concern: some folks believe that using biodegradable bags may subsequently endorse littering.)
To alleviate mass confusion, the American Society for Testing and Materials Standards (ASTM) has created a logo for these new bags:
To be clear, this logo can only be placed on bags that have been certified by ASTM. (To see a current list of approved vendors, click here.)
But before you breathe a sigh of relief, consider this: A plastic bag may be degradable, but it's not necessarily biodegradable nor compostable.
In plain English, this is what it means:
- A biodegradable bag must be able to naturally degrade on a chemical level; this process may (or may not) result in toxic residues.
- A compostable bag must be able to naturally degrade on a chemical AND physical level; this process cannot result in toxic residues.
Whew...that's a lot of information, but I certainly hope this post will help clear-up those bag confusions!
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
I just read a disturbing article in today's South Bend Tribune.
Turns out, residents in Port Arthur, TX are protesting against receiving Indiana's wastewater, which contain a nerve gas called VX. Ok, before I divulge anymore details, here are some basic facts:
* Port Arthur, TX is 90 miles east of Houston, TX (so it's located along the gulf coast).
* According to the 2000 U.S. census, the Port Arthur population is 57,755 (it's a small town).
To get a better perspective on these stats, I googled the distance between South Bend, IN and Port Arthur, TX. It's about an 18-hour journey (1,154 miles away).
But as I just discovered, the chemical plant is located in Newport, IN, approximately 70 miles west of Indianapolis:
To get a better visual of this Port Arthur, TX, I googled the city's name and found this picture:
Here's a photo of one of the shipments:
Ok, now that you have a bit of background information, I encourage you to read the article (click here). And of course, please feel free to post your comment about this story on the blog.