Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Clever recycling post-election yard signs

OK I don't care if you voted for Obama/Biden or McCain/Palen and had personal preferences for state or local politics enough to put a sign in your front yard. But now, you have yard signs and the elections are over. So what do you do with it? As a consummate recycler, I was ready to deconstruct the signs to metal (go to metal recycle bin) and plastic sign (which I hoped) would be acceptable for the plastic recycle bin. Sigh, I inspected the politico signs my dear husband had amassed and didn't see a recycle logo on any of them. What was this stuff made of?

While I pondered this problem, my husband (an 1880-early 1900s historian) solved the dilemma of what to do with the signs. Our house is old and typical of the south, it doesn't have a basement. It also is not on a slab (modern). It's raised, has a crawl space, bricked with open air vents.

Wonderful husband deconstructed the signs and laid the corrugated plastic in front of the vents, pressed the wire supports into the ground in front of the sign so that it pressed the signs against the air vents. Voila! Winterized house underpinnings thanks to political signage. Cost zero. Landfill, diverted.

Our depression-era and pre-depression parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. knew how to recycle. It was not 'cool' it was pragmatic. Resources were scarce. So was money. That combination made them very creative recyclers. We could learn a lot from them. Our only stumbling block is that we want everything to look like it came from a Pottery Barn display. We are in a recession. Maybe it's time to get back to basics. Can we be as creative as our great grandparents in reusing materials? If not, why not?

What did you do with your political signs?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Obama-Biden Energy Team summary






Steven Chu

Energy Secretary

Biofuels (second generation), solar energy, energy efficiency, climate change

Nuclear, fossil fuels

Lisa Jackson

EPA Administrator

Climate change

New coal powered plants

Ken Salazar

Interior Secretary

Wilderness protection; strong water quality laws; pro-coal; carbon capture/sequestration

Skeptic on oil shale development

Tom Vilsack

Agriculture Secretary

Cap-and-trade; cellulosic ethanol

Nancy Sutley

Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)

Cap-and-trade; climate change

Carol Browner,

Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change “Climate Czar”

Climate change

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

Cap-and-trade; climate change

Congressman Edward Markey, D-Mass.

Chairman House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming

Chairman House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment

Renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, and biomass; climate change; cap-and-trade

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

If the world was a cube

Have you checked out the new milk jug at Costco yet? It's a brick. A great example of sustainable packaging. The container is optimized to eliminate shipping dead space from the dairy to the dairy case and it can be stacked without having to put it in a box first. By optimizing the container to fill the space, standardizing the shape to fit on a normal palette, it also eliminates the need for the odd sized milk crates that need to be sent back to the dairy to be sterilized and reused. Here's another example of something so simple, as the redesign of a container to make it more like a space saving cube, that it is revolutionary. And so sustainable, saving space, water (for cleaning the milk crates), and energy (fuel and space conditioning). Oh, and did I mention, it is cheaper than the traditional gallon milk jug.

What else can we make into a cube that can be easily fit on a standard pallet for efficient shipping? Those two liter soda bottles come to mind. Let's face it, they are tough to pour as is, why can't Coke and Pepsi follow the lead of the dairy with their 'cubic' milk jug? Just think about how much more product could be put on the shelf along with the reduced footprint this would net! No doubt the cost would also be reduced.

Sustainability can be as simple as a cubic jug of milk.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Can you say "DUH"!

Kudos to McDonald's. They figured out that if they simply reduced their energy use by 14% they could save $1.5B (yes "B" as in BILLION DOLLARS) per year. So what Herculean efforts did they have to do? Tap the energy content of their french fry grease?Install a microturbine on every golden arch? Tap the kinetic energy of the kids playing with Ronald McDonald? Nope, nope, and heck nope. They're turning out the lights and turning down the temperature when they are closed. It's elegence in its simplicity and it is what my mom has always told me "Dear, please turn off the lights!" Who'd a thought...

Of course they won't be having my mom standing at the door of each Micky D's. They are taking a slightly higher tech option. They are using sensors and monitors to track this stuff. This takes the human (error) element out of the loop. The cost of installing these gizmo's will be paid back quickly with the energy costs avoided.

Only 14% decrease in energy use, $1.5BILLION! Imagine all restaurants, offices, and businesses simply installing gizmo's to be energy smart (like my mom). Think about the number of people that won't need to be laid off to control a company's cost. That would be good for the environment as well as for the economy. Wouldn't it?

Sustainability is not rocket science!

Monday, January 5, 2009

deconstruct/reconstruct stuff like a Lego Mindstorm

I was cleaning out a closet over the holidays and came across my Mindstorm NXT robot kit and its half-built starter robot. What was I thinking? I'm from the Lincoln Logs generation!

What attracted me to the Mindstorm robots is the versatility of the pieces. These little robots can be constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed into a completely different robot almost effortlessly (if you are of the millennial generation). The possibilities are almost infinite. The beauty of the system is that many of the pieces are multifunctional. There are only so many types of pins and brackets to keep the whole robot together. The 'brick' which is the brains of the system is easily programmable.

Why can't todays designers and engineers learn from this childs toy? Imagine standardized deconstructable small appliances! What if.....what if all small appliances were distilled down to a standard set of pieces and a number of different appliances could be made from combination's of those pieces, like Mindstorm NXT robots. When I replace my espresso machine, the old machine could be quickly deconstructed and the pieces binned for reuse in another espresso machine or maybe into a blender.

Making things like appliances, computers, phones, other electronics standardized and deconstructable would reduce our resource footprint and reduce landfill. Instead of metal recycling facilities, those facilities could be parts warehouses.

Something to think about.