Monday, April 30, 2007

In the balance

In the current hype about global warming. Many issues are getting rolled into one and some are getting overlooked. Global warming is one side-effect of non-sustainable resource use. Of course it is a huge issue and needs to be dealt with, but there are many issues that are all interconnected and I think it's important to keep in mind all of the challenges, not just the popular ones.

Environmental public health is another huge concern. This was bigger back in the 70's when Earth Day started, and is still important despite fading from the headlines. Biodiversity loss is another concern, but unlike the first two issues, is harder to make an economic case for. Although, I believe biodiversity is important, there is not a straight line from biodiversity to our continued survival. Resource usage and waste are issues that go well beyond global warming and energy use. Water is going to be a big issue in the future. The American dream includes a big lawn, even in places where the water has to travel hundreds of miles to get there. Food is also going to be a problem as more farmland gets turned residential (or even into energy crops).

These issues are all inter-related and good solutions will help alleviate many of these problems at once. However, we have to be mindful of solutions to one problem that make others worse. Currently, there is concern that diverting corn to auto fuel is a waste of good food. This is probably true since corn is a relatively poor source of ethanol. The reason it's popular is that the technology is ready to go. Cellulosic ethanol should be much more efficiently produced once we figure it out. But do we use corn in the meantime to get the infrastructure up and running or do we use the funds currently going to corn to fund research in to better technologies. And in either case, how do we make sure that food doesn't get diverted from those who can't pay as much? This will also lead to more monoculture agriculture, which impacts biodiversity.

There is a lot to think about when trying to save the planet, but in the end any action is good. We just need to make the extra effort to find good solutions.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Trader Joe's veggies

TJs is one of the things that will ease the transition to life in New England. In the winter, (and fall and spring) when good local produce is hard to come by, they will still have their great frozen goods. Another post will discuss the trade offs involved in getting good produce. Local is always good, but setting up a climate controlled greenhouse to grow strawberries in Massachusetts in winter will possibly use more energy than growing them in Chile and shipping them en masse. New Zealand makes this argument about their sheep. The third option is to freeze or can local produce in season. Canned is likely the best option from an energy standpoint, but it doesn't taste as good. Freezing takes energy to maintain, but not only do folks like TJs do it better than I can, but their (I'm guessing here) large scale freezers are probably more efficient than the little thing above my fridge.

On a slightly related note, I've always thought it was odd that TJs wrapped all their fresh veggies in so much plastic. It seems like such a waste and put a ding in my glowing image of them. I just noticed the other day that the plastic is made from corn and is compostable. Cool. I am definitely setting up a compost heap in the new place. I want to take and old oil drum and turn it into a rotating composter.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

DIY soda water

M saw in the Berkeley Parents Network advice emails a thread about making your own soda water to reduce the number of plastic bottles. I will definitely have to look into this once we've moved. It sounds like you buy CO2 cartridges and a special bottle. I'm guessing the cartridges are re-usable.

In looking for ways to green my life, I'm trying to start with the worst offenders. The first thing to minimize the non-recyclable and non-compostable trash. Soda bottles are recyclable, so they would be lower priority, but if this also saves us money (this stuff adds up and we are addicted to it), then it may be an early move. I'll post the details when I have a plan.

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